The Hoboken City Council okayed settling a whistleblower lawsuit with former Police Chief Anthony Falco for $650,000 at last week’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Falco’s suit claimed former Mayor Dawn Zimmer and then-Public Safety Director Jon Tooke retaliated against him for supporting her political opponents, as well as testifying in the trial of former Public Safety Director Angel Alicea where he was ultimately awarded over a $1 million for discrimination, though the city appealed and settled for $700,000.
At the tail end of the meeting during new business, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos made a motion to introduce an emergency resolution that was seconded by 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino.
“There’s a resolution for an emergency to vote on a settlement agreement for a former employee of the City of Hoboken. And that was motioned and seconded, please call the vote on that,” said Council President Mike Russo.
Giattino asked if the reason for the emergency had to be read into the record, to which Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia provided a brief explanation that indicated taxpayers would not be on the hook for the costs.
“A federal court judge is waiting for our decision, as is the JIF [joint insurance fund], which is the insurance company that will be paying it, for lack of a better word, they have a meeting before our next meeting where they’re gonna approve it,” he said.
No one else at the meeting discussed the settlement during public session.
The motion to add the emergency resolution to the agenda passed 7-1(1), with Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour voting no and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen abstaining.
Subsequently, the vote to approve the settlement passed unanimously (9-0).
Falco, the police chief between 2009 and 2014, had pending litigation in superior and federal court.
According to public records, on April 5th, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula adjourned a May 5th trial in the matter until October 17th.
Additionally, a federal settlement conference was held on March 15th and Zimmer emailed the city council the next day giving her take on what had transpired since the claims were reinstated on appeal in 2019 and 2021, respectively.
“The proposed settlement does not mitigate any potential financial risk to the City that it might otherwise face if the case proceeds to trial. No such risk exist … In a financial sense, the City has literally financially nothing to lose by proceeding to trial,” she wrote.
“At the conference, the federal Magistrate estimated the City’s maximum potential damages exclusive of legal fees, if the City were to lose at trial, to be only $35,000 – $45,000. Since the plaintiff’s chances of prevailing at trial are, to put it charitably, uncertain, that makes the settlement value, exclusive of legal fees nominal.”
She continued that the settlement “value” of the case should be based on the legal fees Falco has incurred to date, not in the allegations made in his lawsuits, as well as that the JIF would cover the costs whether they settled or proceeded to trial.
A city spokeswoman and Falco’s attorney did not return emails seeking comment.