Mayor Fulop misinformed public about Jersey City Recreation lawsuits

Mayor Steven Fulop misinformed the public about the status of lawsuits related to the reorganization of the Jersey City Recreation Department.

Jermaine Robinson - Steven Fulop - Jersey City

Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson and Mayor Steven Fulop. (PHOTO: B.L.E.S.C. podcast)

During a recent episode of the Blacks in Law Enforcement Servicing the Community (BLESC) podcast, Mayor Steven Fulop misinformed the public about litigation stemming from the Jersey City Recreation Department’s restructuring.

Specifically, on October 6, 2021, Fulop said his administration”ended up getting sued by ten employees,” but that “it was ridiculous accusation, the courts threw it right out.”

Upon further review, Fulop’s statement was incorrect. In fact, on September 30, 2021, Superior Court Judge Marybeth Rogers denied the Fulop administration’s motion to dismiss a racial discrimination lawsuit – filed by four black city employees on May 20, 2021 – arising from the Rec Dept. reorganization.

In their complaint, Daniel Ali, Alita Carter, Emerlyn Deline, and Frank Gilmore claim the city violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) when they targeted minority employees of the Rec Dept. and subjected them to “illegal transfers, title changes and/or demotions.”

In the judge’s ruling, Rogers stated that the plaintiffs’ LAD and CEPA claims – which included specific accusations of discrimination “in comparison with their Caucasian colleagues” – were sufficiently pled to survive a motion to dismiss.

Furthermore, Rogers provided a timeline of events surrounding the litigation:

  • The four plaintiffs were previously parties to a lawsuit filed on March 2, 2020, “which sought, among other things, to enjoin the City from transferring Plaintiffs and other parties to new positions” until the Civil Service Commission (CSC) approved a reorganization plan for the Rec Dept.
  • On March 10, 2020, Judge Peter F. Bariso, Jr., denied the plaintiffs’ request for immediate relief and ruled that the matter should proceed in the normal course.
  • On September 24, 2020, Judge Vincent J. Militello granted the Fulop admin’s motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice, transferred the plaintiffs’ complaint to the CSC, and ordered that plaintiffs had 120 days after the CSC’s decision to refile.
  • On January 22, 2021, CSC issued its opinion. Two days before the expiration of the 120-day period set by Militello, the four plaintiffs filed their current complaint.

The original lawsuit filed on March 2, 2020, which Fulop was referencing during the BLESC podcast, had ten plaintiffs. The other six plaintiffs from that lawsuit were Antonio Carrero, Sabrina Harrold, Joseph Jablonka, Andrew Kemp, Keesha Taylor, and Dan Wiley.

Harrold, Taylor, and Wiley have separate, ongoing litigation against the Fulop admin related to the Rec Dept. –  which means at least seven of the ten plaintiffs from the lawsuit referenced by Fulop are actively suing the city.

Regarding the civil service decision, the agency ruled that the underlying reorganization plan was properly executed, but CSC did not have jurisdiction to review discrimination complaints for local employees. Rogers dismissed two counts from the May 20th lawsuit related to the CSC ruling because the claims fall under the Appellate Division’s jurisdiction.

Ultimately, an agency ruled in favor of Fulop’s reorganization plan; however, the court’s haven’t thrown out any lawsuits against the city or made any determinations related to accusations of racial discrimination.

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