Ex-North Bergen official fired after NBC probe files defamation suit against Wainstein

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A former official at the North Bergen Housing Authority that was at the heart of an investigation by the NBC I-Team has filed a defamation suit against mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein claiming that a mailer he disseminated misrepresented their coverage.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Geoff Santini, the former NBHA security director, says in a lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court on April 26th, that a campaign flyer sent out by Wainstein last month acted with “reckless disregard for the truth.”

The specific instance he pointed to is when a Wainstein mailer distributed last month said that he operated “an illegal car dealership out of the North Bergen Housing Authority.”

An NBC report from March 11th, 2018 said that “sources told the I-Team Santini has a history of selling used cars. And News 4 acquired documents of a former used car dealership called Elite Auto Sales.”

A copy of the mailer in question is not attached to the lawsuit.

Santini ended up being fired after a series of I-Team reports alleged he had a very low-show job at the NBHA and he ended up filing a whistleblower lawsuit against the agency shortly after the fact, claiming he was actually being punished for reporting wrongdoing.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, costs, interests and attorney’s fees, as well as injunctive relief and any other relief the court deems appropriate, also claiming that “private matters” were disclosed to the public and that Santini was unjustly identified as “corrupt.”

Wainstein spokesman Hank Sheinkopf brushed off the lawsuit as white noise.

“Power plant Sacco will do anything to distract from the real issues of this race,” he said over the phone.

The attorney representing Santini, Thomas Wall, could not be reached at his office on Thursday.

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