A former Hudson County Community College vice president had portions of a lawsuit restored that alleged one instance of questionable contractor billing, along with claiming a construction bid where the lowest vendor was not selected, on appeal.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Thomas Brodowksi was fired from his post as the HCCC vice president of administrative services for allegedly violating the college’s code of ethics for using a school vehicle for personal use back in 2015.
He filed a lawsuit alleging the school violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) since his termination came after making whistleblower claims. While the suit was rejected on summary judgement in 2018, the appellate court has ruled in his favor.
“Viewing the evidence favorably to plaintiff, the record facts establish a prima facie CEPA claim and a retaliatory termination sufficient to warrant denial of summary judgment as to claims related to the custodial and MAST contracts,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Robert J. Gilson, Scott J. Moynihan, and Katie A. Gummer ruled on Friday.
The first allegation says that ex-college employee Joseph Torturelli deviated from a contract with a custodial contractor, without consent from counsel, billing HCCC per square foot and charging for supplies – instead of billing per hour and paying for supplies out of pocket.
An audit found that the school had been “substantially overbilled,” according to the appellate court, with Torturelli ultimately taking an extended leave before resigning in June 2015.
The second significant allegation involves Little Falls-based MAST Construction, who built the North Hudson branch of the college in Union City at a cost of about $40 million, according to their website.
Brodowksi, through the court filing, says that MAST was not the lowest bidder for the job, but were still selected due to the insistence of then-HCCC President Dr. Glen Gabbert and HCCC Board Chair William Netchert.
He also points out that the MAST Construction President Ted Domuracki sat on the college’s architectural advisory committee.
Whether or not any wrongdoing actually occurred will be decided by a lower court, the appellate division ruled.
” … We reverse and remand those portions of the motion granting summary judgment as to the claims based on whistleblowing activities regarding the custodial contract and the MAST contract. We remand both claims for further proceedings.”
Additionally, the dismissal of a claim regarding a potentially fraudulent contract audit was affirmed by the appellate court.