West New York BOE settles ex-employee’s political retaliation suit for $295k

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The West New York Board of Education settled a former employee’s political retaliation lawsuit for $295,000 after a closed session discussion last night.

A photo from the July 3, 2017 West New York Board of Education meeting.
A photo from the July 3, 2017 West New York Board of Education meeting.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“My client’s happy about the settlement and that she could put this matter behind her,” Louis Zayas, the attorney representing Dominique DeMarquet, said over the phone this morning.

Sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak on the matter, said the matter was approved by a vote of 5-2(1) – with Trustees Matthew Cheng and Ron Scheurle voting no, while Trustee Lorena Portillo abstained.

Trustee David Morel was absent for the vote.

In the suit, DeMarquet, a supporter of former Mayor Sal Vega, alleged she was terminated from a secretarial position in the West New York BOE back on October 13, 2011 for political reasons.

Back in September 2015, a Hudson County Superior Court judge dismissed the case, however, it was reinstated on appeal back in November.

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, where Zayas was the attorney 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.

DeMarquet’s case recently came up on the municipal level: the board of commissioners signed off on an ethics complaint against ex-Corporation Counsel Julio Morejon for allegedly “disclosing privileged information in the case.”

At the time, Zayas, who is also representing Morejon, scoffed at the decision.

“West New York’s decision to file ethics charges against Mr. Morejon is misplaced and motivated primarily at an attempt at a former employee who reported corruption and wrongdoing in West New York,” he told Hudson County View.

 

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