NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city's embattled police department has been sued by its own officers for the second time in less than a week, according to court documents.
This time, the current department director Tony Caputo is charged, as well as City Administrator Thomas Loughlin, and several other defendants that were named in a suit filed a few days earlier by New Brunswick Police Lieutenant Steven Middleton.
The new lawsuit was filed by three patrolmen, allegedly because they failed to support the administration of Mayor James Cahill, who was named in both suits as the head of a political patronage machine centered around the department. The suit says the department was a difficult place to work for those who did not support Cahill's campaigns either financially or with their time.
"Principally, loyalists [to Cahill], are determined by virtue of their willingness to contribute work and/or money to the political machine."
"As part and parcel of the political patronage system which infects the police department and possibly the whole city government, political favoritism and punishment of the disloyal have been a predominant theme in the operation of the New Brunswick Police Department for many years."
The lawsuit alleges that opportunities to work overtime and "extra duty" assignments with private businesses were primarily reserved for supporters of the current administration. It also stated that "contrary to loyalists," the department's black sheep would, at times, be assigned to "the unenviable task of being school crossing guards."
"For at least 20 years, political control of the City of New Brunswick has been exercised by a political machine which is now headed by the Mayor of the City."
It also claims the "rewarding of loyalists" and "punishment of dissidents" have become hallmarks of the city's troubled police department.
Police Director Anthony Caputo was named in the suit filed by plaintiffs Arthur Anderson, Maurice Finney, and Tony Ingram, long-time New Brunswick officers claiming to be victimized by the department's leadership and "tagged as dissidents."
The suit also says that "At least one plaintiff, namely Finney, has been reprimanded for taking vacation even though he had preapproval for same on the excuse that too many people had taken vacation on that date, when the percieved loyalists had not been so reprimanded on the same day."
Caputo responded to the accusations publicly in the Home News Tribune:
“Officers Anderson, Finney and Ingram have more than 50 years of combined service as police officers in our city. Like all police officers, they have taken a sworn oath to bring to the attention to the proper authorities any violation of constitutional rights and by not doing so failed in their responsibility to this department. This lawsuit and the allegations raised in the complaint have no merit whatsoever.”
Middleton's suit alleged the former director Peter Mangarella was a racist who passed him over repeatedly for promotions because he was African-American. NewBrunswickToday.com broke that story on March 16.
When questioned about the matter at a March 21 City Council meeting, the Council said it had not been notified by the city's law department about the suit. Councilwoman Rebecca Escobar said she found out about the Middleton lawsuit from NewBrunswickToday.com's article at the meeting.
In that same meeting, City Attorney William Hamilton said under questioning that the city had not been informed of any additional "recent" lawsuits by officers against the city.
The patrolmen's lawsuit was filed on March 2. It's not yet clear when the plaintiffs were served.
The city's Mayor of 21 years, Jim Cahill, has said thus far that it would be inappropriate to comment on pending litigation through his spokesman Russell Marchetta.
"We cannot comment on pending litigation," Marchetta said in an email sent shortly before the story on Middleton's lawsuit was posted.
However, the Mayor's Office has apparently changed their opinion, as Cahill substantively commented on Middleton's allegations in Makin's article published this morning:
“The allegations raised in the complaint are contrary to the ideals of this administration and out of character for each and every member of my administration,” Cahill told Makin.
Cahill has yet to publicly respond to the lawsuit filed by Anderson, Finney, and Ingram.