The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey has reinstated a lawsuit against West New York where a former board of education employee alleges Mayor Felix Roque fired her as a form of political retaliation.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We reverse the orders granting summary judgment to defendants because of material factual disputes concerning the motive’s of plaintiffs discharge,” Judges Robert J. Gilson and Kenneth R. Meyer wrote in an opinion dated yesterday.
“We also remand for further consideration the order denying plaintiff’s motion to strike the Mayor’s answer, the order granting the Mayor a protective order, and the order denying plaintiff’s motion to compel the deposition of [Superintendent of Schools] Clara Herrera.”
Back in September 2015, a Hudson County Superior Court judge dismissed Dominique DeMarquet’s case on summary judgement.
“The town will not be held hostage by individuals seeking to line their pockets by filing frivolous lawsuits against it. This case demonstrates that the town will vigorously defend against any and all such claims,” Roque said in a statement at the time.
DeMarquet’s attorney, Louis Zayas, told Hudson County View the appellate court made the right call.
“I think the appellate court got it right. There was enough evidence to go to a jury. The [superior court] judge, although a very good judge, just made a mistake,” Zayas said over the phone.
West New York Corporation Counsel Donald Scarinci responded that “we’re deciding what our next move will be,” declining to comment further.
Through the suit, DeMarquet alleged she was terminated from a secretarial position in the West New York BOE back on October 13, 2011, filing a suit claiming she was fired for political reasons nearly two years later.
A local government employee since 2002, DeMarquet joined the BOE in 2008 and made an annual salary of $75,000 when she was terminated, the suit says.
She also cites the April 19, 2013 state Office of Fiscal Compliance and Accountability that claimed Roque had a “hit list” to determine which anti-administration types would be fired, also claiming that the mayor controlled all the hires at the BOE.
In July 2016, Scarinci slammed the report, detailing that the transcripts from employee interviews did not match what was in the final report.
At the same meeting, the West New York Board of Commissioners settled a racketeering suit with 15 plaintiffs for $1.2 million.
BOE employees Michelle Lopez, a former town commissioner under Mayor Sal Vega, and Scott Cannao received the largest payouts at $200,000 and $150,000, respectively.
Cannao and Lopez were both cited in DeMarquet’s case, with Cannao stating that her former office has actually increased their number of employees and Lopez indicating that Roque’s hit list indeed existed.
Should the court matter proceed to trial, it is possible that both Roque, who had previously invoked his 5th amendment right in regards to the OFAC report, and Herrera would have to testify.