A lawsuit filed by 10 current employees of the Jersey City Recreation Department will wage on after a judge denied an order seeking “temporary restraints,” with both sides telling HCV that they feel confident in the case moving forward.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
An order to show cause seeking temporary restraints – filed in a lawsuit where Dan Wiley, Sabrina Harrold, Keesha Taylor, Alita Carter, Antonio Carrero, Daniel Ali, Andrew Kemp, Joseph Jablonka, Frank Gilmore, and Emerline Deline are suing the city and a slew of officials – was denied by Hudson County Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter Bariso yesterday.
However, his ruling will also allow the case to “proceed in the normal course.”
According to Desha Jackson, a Freehold attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that if it made sense to ask for the temporary restraints to protect her clients jobs, but even without them, she feels the facts are on their side.
“Of course the Plaintiffs wanted temporary restraints to protect the Plaintiffs jobs for the reasons stated. Nevertheless, the Plaintiffs appreciates that their matter was converted into a normal complaint and a lawsuit will now proceed based on their meritorious claims,” she said this morning.
“They hope that the Defendants will rethink how they will treat the Plaintiffs. If not, a jury will decide if the Defendants actions violated the laws as specified in the complaint. The Plaintiffs believe in their case and will seek to prevail on the merits at trial.”
The lawsuit, filed on March 2nd, claims that the employees were all transferred or demoted as acts of political retaliation as the city moved to reorganize the rec department in July.
The court filing also says that the former head of human resources, Mark Bunbury, sent out an email on September 25th of last year, about a month before the council’s repeal vote, asking everyone to reapply for their jobs – even if they had earned a permanent civil service title.
Bunbury ended up leaving his City Hall post for a law firm job a few weeks after sending the aforementioned email.
In response, city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione maintained that the city has been following, and continues to follow, best municipal practices and called the lawsuit “baseless.”
“As we’ve said all along, this process has followed best practices and our goal has always been to provide residents more programs for children. This lawsuit was just a couple of employees that didn’t follow the rules and didn’t want to see progress, so it’s no surprise that the judge’s swift ruling denied this baseless lawsuit,” she stated.
“The bottom line is, anyone who followed the rules, submitted paperwork to stay in recreation, and has been showing up for work with good attendance, was given a job in recreation.”
In another court filing related to the case today, Jackson wrote a letter to Bariso indicating that the city was trying to have her removed from the case due to a conflict for performing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigations for the city between 2017 and 2018.
However, in the letter, she says that according to municipal code, she is only banned from working on city-related cases for one year after her previous job was completed.
” I have not performed any work for the City for more than a year and I am no longer barred from representing people against the City of Jersey City in accordance with Section 33-2,” she wrote.
Back in January, a handful of rec employees were charged by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for allegedly running an $80,000 payroll scheme.
They were all suspended without pay, pending the resolution of their cases in court.