In a lawsuit with a number of salacious allegations, a former Union City Tenant’s Advocacy attorney claims he was fired about two months after meeting with detectives from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The 26-page, six-count lawsuit was filed in Hudson County Superior Court two weeks ago by Jersey City attorney John Salierno, who is representing himself in the matter.
He states that he began receiving hourly compensation from the city when they used local law firm Dario & Yacker, his former employer, as their contracted counsel for the UCTA about a decade ago before being named full-time counsel on September 8th, 2020.
“The City did not enforce any safeguards against visitors infected with or exposed to the novel coronavirus-19 from entering City Hall. In January 2021, Plaintiff and another UCTA employee contracted the novel coronavirus-19,” the suit claims.
” … In December 2020, Plaintiff received a letter at his residence from the Brian P. Stack Civic Association soliciting donations … Fearing that his employment could be terminated, Plaintiff mailed a check in the amount of $100.00″ to the civic association.
About two months later, Justin Mercado, an aide to Stack in his capacity as state senator and a board of education employee, asked him to donate to the Senate campaign, and ultimately wrote a check for $2,600, the lawsuit says.
Alex Velazquez, another aide to Stack in the senate and also a City Hall employee, allegedly asked Salierno when he was available to help the campaign during work hours on June 8th, 2021, to which he obliged in the afternoon.
In August of that same year, Salierno was collecting signatures to run for the Jersey City Ward D council seat, which led to a call from special counsel inquiring if he was running for municipal office.
He said that he was planning to do so, to which special counsel said he should consult with Stack before running for office.
He also said that an unnamed employee that worked both at City Hall and the Senate office informed him that Stack was disappointed he was seeking the council seat (Salierno ultimately came in a distance third place).
Around this same time, Salierno asserts in the court filing that Stack told UCTA employees that they weren’t spending enough time helping Stack’s re-election bid to the Senate.
Then, on Halloween 2021, Salierno told several City Hall employees he wouldn’t be coming to work the next day due to pain and swelling in his hand. Despite this fact, he claims Stack called him four times in four minutes the next day and left a voicemail.
“I am absolutely dumbfounded by your voice and text messages. I always answer my cell phone when you call; if not, I call or text you back immediately,” Salierno allegedly wrote in a November 3rd, 2021 email addressing the situation.
“Missing two phone calls on my personal cell phone-one outside work hours and one when I was sick, both of which I responded to via text – is not insubordination. Whatever action you take will be met with appropriate action from me or my attorney.”
He also asked Stack to no longer contact him on his personal cell phone and that he should have the city provide him a work phone if his office phone and email were insufficient.
From that point forward, Salierno asserts that he no longer received client referrals and two emails asking Stack to fully staff the UCTA were ignored.
As a result, he emailed the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability on December 1st, 2021, claiming that he had been regularly referred to tenants in Stack’s Senate district outside of Union City, with the expectation that he would still represent them free of charge.
He also emailed several workers employed by both of Stack’s offices on December 10th asking them to no longer give him clients from outside of Union City. If they continued to do so, he said he would refer them back to the mayor’s office.
Then on December 28th, Salierno again contacted the AG’s office about his encounter with Mercado outlined earlier in the lawsuit. During the first week of 2022, he met with two detectives from the public integrity unit in Secaucus, the court filing contends.
The following month, he allegedly sent them “over two hundred documents” showing multiple requests for him to represent clients from outside Union City. However, they did not have any subsequent interactions after that, Salierno claims in the suit.
Around this time, he also followed Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests to attempt to differentiate when Stack was on the clock as mayor versus as senator.
After some more spats with the city over his work, including bringing up a potential conflict since his office in Jersey City also handled tenant-landlord issues and that his Union City gig was supposed to be full time, Salierno was finally terminated on March 18th, 2022.
Salierno says in the court filing that the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection (whistleblower) Act, as well as his civil rights, were violated, he was wrongfully discharged, endured a hostile work environment, faced emotional distress, and defamation.
For those reasons, he is seeking compensatory, consequential, punitive, general, and special damages, as well as attorney’s fees, accrued pre-judgement interests, costs of suit, and any relief the court deems just and equitable.
The suit names Stack, the city, and the Union City Board of Commissioners.
Ralph Lamparello, a managing partner at Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo, PC – the law firm who was hired to represent the UCTA after Salierno was terminated who is also representing the city in this case – dismissed the claims as meritless.
“We think there is no merit to any of the allegations, so the matter will be perceived through the normal course and we are optimistic that at the end of the day, the matter will be dismissed. His claim of discrimination as an Italian American is utter fantasy.”