Ex-Hoboken police chief has whistleblower, civil rights claims against Zimmer, city revived

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Ex-Hoboken Police Chief Anthony Falco has seen his whistleblower and civil rights claims against former Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the city revived on appeal, over seven years after his initial lawsuit was filed.

Anthony Falco being sworn in as Hoboken police chief on June 18th, 2009. Photo via hobokennj.org.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Falco argues he showed that defendants’ denial of his benefits and harassment were the result of exercising his rights to free speech and political association. Again, we favor Falco’s argument, concluding the court misapplied the law,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Thomas W. Sumners, Richard J. Geiger, and Stephane Anne Mitterhoff wrote today.

” … There were sufficient facts to deny summary judgment dismissal of Falco’s First Amendment retaliation claim. His testimony in Alicea’s civil action and the allegations in his federal lawsuit are protected speech because he was acting as a private citizen, not as a public official.”

Angel Alicia, a former Hoboken public safety director, was awarded an over $1 million judgement by a Hudson County jury in 2014 for a wrongful termination claim where Alicea successfully argued he was discriminated against by the city, though not Zimmer.

The city appealed this decision and ended up settling for $700,000.

The appellate court upheld his Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) and New Jersey Civil Rights Act (NJCRA) claims, which the court says hold up for now due to his aforementioned testimony in the Alicea case as well as his own federal claim.

If he prevails on either claim, he will also be eligible for attorney’s fees, the appellate court said.

Falco’s federal suit was dismissed in 2017 and his superior court claim met the same fate in 2018, though the federal case was reinstated in 2019.

The police chief between 2009 and 2014, the appellate division affirmed the orders dismissing his common law contract claims related to working without a formal agreement between 2009 and 2012.

They also agreed with a lower court’s decision that barred expert testimony that said he was retaliated against for being a political opponent of the mayor since he did not provide enough context to express anything beyond his personal opinion.

Back in 2018, Zimmer slammed Falco’s ongoing litigation in a statement exclusively provided to HCV.

“Unscrupulous attorneys too often misuse our well intentioned civil rights laws to attempt to enrich themselves and their clients with frivolous claims such as these, clogging up our courts and costing New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees each year,” she said, in part, at the time.

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