A Jersey City police officer who had no-show job charges against him dismissed back in October 2018 has reached a $210,000 lawsuit settlement with the city, pending approval from the city council tomorrow.
“N.J.S.A. 40A:14-155 requires municipalities to reimburse a municipal police officer for his legal expenses if a criminal proceeding on behalf of a municipality is dismissed or finally determined in favor of the officer,” a copy of the resolution says.
“Whereas, [Michael] O’Neil’s claim for back pay is settled and the only outstanding issue is his legal expenses for the criminal trial … the city was able to negotiate a settlement of O’Neil’s legal expenses for $210,000.”
Back in June 2016, O’Neil, along with three other Jersey City police officers, were charged by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for no-show jobs and/or filing for excessive overtime related to off-duty details at the Pulaski Skyway.
However, in the case of O’Neil, as the resolution notes, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina dismissed the charges in October 2018 (two other officers ended up being acquitted after the prosecution rested).
O’Neil had been accused of official misconduct, theft by deception, a pattern of official misconduct and conspiracy.
In his lawsuit, O’Neil said that he was suspended without pay when he was indicted on June 14th, 2016 until he was reinstated on October 24th, 2018.
At the end of 2018, his annual salary was about $113,000, according to public records. No more updated payroll records were immediately available.
Additionally, court filings in the case indicate that O’Neil’s counsel in the matter, Charles Sciarra, of Sciarra & Catrambone, LLC in Clifton, was getting frustrated with the settlement taking as long as it has.
“Simply said, I can no longer afford to wait for payment which was negotiated in a settlement many months ago and for which papers were executed by my client back on June 10, 2020,” he wrote in a July 21st letter to Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula.
“Most respectfully, I request the opportunity to do two things. File a motion for enforcement of the action with attorney’s fees or otherwise if the City maintains the matter is not resolved by way of formal approvals than file an application to withdraw from the settlement and proceed in accordance with the other defendants in the case. I note that I settled the matter in a timely fashion and have indicated to my client that we would honor that notwithstanding the developments in the ongoing litigation.”
The next day, counsel for the city in the case, Benjamin Levine of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP, responded that they received a copy of the settlement on June 17th and that they had not violated the agreement since there was no definitive timeline.
“Defendants are not in breach of the settlement agreement as it contains no clause requiring payment of the settlement amount by a certain date. Mr. Sciarra is correct that our office and his have been in communication regarding the final execution of the agreement and the payment of the settlement amount,” he said.
“We continue to work toward these goals in good faith in the face of the ongoing public health crisis, and thank counsel for his patience in this regard.”
He concluded that the agreement would be on the city council agenda for August 12th, where approval would lead to a clear cut payment date.
Sciarra did not return a call to his office or email seeking further comment on Tuesday.
The Jersey City Council convenes tomorrow at 6 p.m. via Microsoft Teams.