In light of a $747,000 settlement between Weehawken and Police Lt. Richard DeCosmis, Township Attorney Richard Venino says although it wasn’t the best case scenario, insurance is “paying every penny” in the matter.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“That’s the whole reason for the settlement was approved, that the insurance company is paying every penny of that,” Venino told Hudson County View over the phone last week.
“We have no control when the insurance company gets to that point. They were always very confident in our position, but the case went on for seven years. We’re talking three lawsuits. If any claim in the federal suit is sustained, they can be liable for the attorney’s fees on the other side. That’s a bigger risk than normal.”
“They let us know: ‘We want to settle, do you approve?’ If we say no, that shifts the risk to us. They’re the pros on that kind of stuff,” Venino added.
Hudson County View first reported on the settlement last week, which brought a conclusion to three lawsuits from DeCosmis, as well as pending disciplinary action from the police department against the lieutenant.
DeCosmis alleged that Mayor Richard Turner and the building department engaged in repeated instances of political retaliation, while the police department alleged DeCosmis abused his authority during an incident with a building inspector where both men filed police complaint against one another.
As of this writing, no other media outlet has released a copy of the settlement.
As we previously reported, DeCosmis earned $138,820 in 2014, according to public records – not including overtime – and is entitled to a 15 percent salary increase effective effective October 26, 2016.
Therefore, DeCosmis will earn $159,643 between late October 2016 and late October 2017. His retirement is effective November 1, 2017 and he is on terminal leave until then.
While it can be argued that DeCosmis’ settlement actually earned him over $1 million, given his salary, Venino said it is important to note that the settlement is the result of over seven years of litigation so a significant portion of those figures are likely going towards legal fees.
Another provision of the settlement is that DeCosmis can never work for the Township of Weehawken again.
“It’s in the best interest of the town he does not return to work here. Working here, he has already filed three lawsuits. We can’t let that trend continue, we must eliminate all potential of him continuing litigation,” Venino explained.
“It’s very difficult when people have lawsuits pending for such a long time … disciplining him became a problem. He should’ve been subject to discipline, but since he’s in a lawsuit, it’s this never-ending battle. Difficult for the police to maintain decorum and understanding in the police department.”
Venino also stated that DeCosmis was “hell bent” on filing lawsuits, even though he was in the wrong in certain situations – evidenced by him paying a fine for doing construction on a property without the proper permits.
Louis Zayas, DeCosmis’ attorney in the matter, declined to elaborate on the settlement.