On modified duty since off-duty jobs scandal, 2 Jersey City cops suing for discrimination

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Two Hispanic Jersey City police officers who have been on modified duty since 2017 following a federal probe into off-duty jobs are suing for discrimination – alleging they were passed up for promotions due to their employment status, while a white colleague was not.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The one-count lawsuit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on May 5th by Officers Melissa Sanchez and Alexander Vilas, says they’ve been on modified duty for just over three years, despite never being charged with a crime or notified that they are under investigation.

“In or about January 2017, several Jersey City Police Officers were placed on modified duty from their duties in connection with corruption related to the City’s off-duty employment program,” they allege in the suit.

“Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs were suspended on or about May 9, 2017 as part of the City’s investigation.”

The court filing also contends that on May 14th, 2018, Sanchez and Vilas were notified that they could not be promoted to sergeant since they were still on modified duty.

That date was about three months after city officials announced they would be abolishing the police off-duty detail program following indictments or guilty pleas of 11 officers for no-show jobs.

Additionally, the timing was one month after ex-Police Chief Philip Zacche admitted to stealing $32,000 from the housing authority by being paid for work he did not perform.

Since then, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office successfully sued to revoke Zacche’s pension, as HCV first reported.

According to the lawsuit, then-Capt. Nicola Flora was promoted to the position of deputy chief on March 11th, 2019, despite being placed on modified duty around the same time Sanchez and Vilas were.

Last month, a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought forth against the city by the two police unions seeking to bring back the off-duty program to the way it was prior to the corruption scandal.

Mets, Schiro, and McGovern represented the unions in that case, through Founding Partner James Mets, while the firm’s other founding partner, Leonard Schiro, is representing Sanchez and Vilas.

Schiro did not immediately return a message left with his office on Wednesday, while a city spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation.

Real Garden State first reported on the lawsuit late last night.

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