A West New York police lieutenant’s lawsuit that says politics delayed his most recent promotion by a year, costing him $20,000 and delaying his ability to take the captain’s test by three years, has been reinstated by the state appellate court.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“On appeal, plaintiff argues this is not a discrimination case, but rather, that he pled sufficient facts to support claims under the [New Jersey Civil Rights Act] and NJRICO,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Douglas M. Fasciale, Scott J. Moynihan, and Stephanie Anne Mitterhoff explained in today’s decision.
“As for the NJCRA, he alleged defendants conditioned his promotion on his relinquishment of his First Amendment rights. As to the NJRICO claims, plaintiff alleged various incidents of conspiracy and extortion to coerce him into changing his political affiliationâ€”a pattern of racketeeringâ€”that promoted a political patronage policy.”
Police Lt. Marcos Garciga had a civil complaint, which alleged that his promotion was delayed due to his political affiliations, specifically supporting his brother-in-law, Henry Marrero’s, unsuccessful run for North Bergen freeholder in 2014.
Marrero ran against eventual winner Anthony Vainieri (D-8), who had the support of state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and other key members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
At the time, the lawsuit named then-Mayor Felix Roque and then-Public Safety Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez, now a county freeholder, as defendants.
That lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in Hudson County Superior Court, with the judge ruling that Garciga suffered “no adverse employment action” since he was eventually promoted – which would negate any civil rights violation claim
However, the appellate court believes that determination was not consistent with case law on the matter.
“There remain multiple alleged facts that support such a cause of action: he supported his brother-in-law’s campaign, in opposition to defendants and their allies; his promotion was conditioned on his political support; he had to ‘make peace’; he had to buy a ticket to a political fundraiser of the opposite party; and he was ‘penalized’ for his association with
his brother-in-law,” the appellate judges noted.
“Furthermore, although he was not required to allege an adverse employment action, plaintiff did so by insisting that he lost $20,000 annually, he lost overtime pay, and his opportunity to sit for the captain’s exam in 2016 was delayed until 2019. Again, at this early stage in the litigation, we must accept these allegations as true.”
In conclusion, the appellate court ruled that Garcia had presented “sufficient facts” to overcome a motion to dismiss, and that both parties should have the opportunity to debate the merits of the NJCRA and NJRICO claims.