North Bergen police lieutenant able to amend civil rights complaint after winning appeal

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A North Bergen police lieutenant is able to amend a civil rights complaint after winning an appeal after a lower court dismissed his filing for failing to make “a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

The North Bergen Police Department. Photo via Facebook.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

North Bergen Police Lt. Marco Rovelo was hired by the department in 2000 and took a civil service exam in May 2016 in order to be promoted to captain, earning the top spot on the promotional list, according to his court filing.

In February 2018, an internal affairs investigation was opened due to his conduct related to an attempted murder investigation.

Internal affairs brought seven administrative charges against him and the two sides reached a settlement where he admitted fault and received a 15-day suspension.

“After executing the Settlement Agreement, plaintiff expected to receive a promotion to the rank of captain,” notes Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Richard S. Hoffman and Heidi W. Currier.

“He believed there was a captain position vacant, and he was first in line for promotion. Defendants disagree and contend that no vacant captain position existed at the time.”

The court explains that the dispute arose since is appeared that a captain would be terminated due to an ongoing disciplinary case, but the charges ultimately were not sustained and he ended up retiring.

“Plaintiff alleges [then]-Chief [Robert] Dowd knowingly manipulated the process to enable the captain, allegedly a close friend of Chief Dowd, to retire instead of being terminated. By the time of the captain’s retirement, plaintiff’s promotional eligibility had expired,” the court wrote.

They later noted that Rovelo asserted Dowd ran the department in a “quasi-tyrannical fashion.”

He filed in court on June 7th, 2019, alleging his civil rights were violated when he was not promoted to captain, which was voluntarily dismissed by September 13th of the same year, though he filed a new lawsuit by September 17th.

While he alleged violations under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (NJCRA) and the New Jersey constitution, the court dismissed his complaint, deciding that it “cannot be remedied by amendment.”

However, the appellate court said today that was the wrong decision in this legal matter.

“While we find no basis to disturb the court’s determination that plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, we disagree with the decision to dismiss with prejudice,” they ruled.

“Based upon our review, the motion court did not ‘search the complaint in depth and with liberality to ascertain whether the fundament of a cause of action may be gleaned’ from the factual allegations in plaintiff’s complaint.”

They further stated that Rovelo should have an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in his lawsuit and therefore the lower court’s ruling is reversed and remanded so he is able to amend his filing.