ATLANTIC CITY — Before discussion of plans to lay off a police became public in 2010, the mayor asked: “How do we get rid of the chief?” then-PBA President Dave Davidson Jr. testified Tuesday.
Former police Chief John Mooney is suing the city, claiming a series of demotions and 60 police layoffs were to target him for being a whistle-blower. The first five full days of testimony in the trial were by Mooney.
Davidson took the stand Tuesday, recalling a meeting with Mayor Lorenzo Langford in January or February 2010, during which the union president was warned discussion of layoffs would soon become public.
“But he said the men and women I represented wouldn’t be touched by that,” Davidson said. “He described a plan that included demotions beginning with the chief.”
That May, 20 officers were laid off. Four months later, 40 more were cut. Eligible officers have since returned to duty.
Now retired, Davidson said he asked the mayor if he had a personnel file on the chief. When asked if there was another way to get rid of Mooney, Davidson said: “Well, you can fire him.”
“He’ll sue me,” he said the mayor replied.
“I said, ‘Well, either way, I think it will end up in a lawsuit,’” Davidson replied.
Davidson acknowledged that he is not a fan of the mayor, having gone against him both as union president and as a Democratic challenger for the mayoral seat this year.
But, he testified, he also had an “adversarial” relationship with the former chief and said the two are not friends.
Davidson and union lawyer Robert O’Brien also testified that Mooney was brought up during collective bargaining.
“It was unusual to bring up Mooney since he wasn’t in negotiations,” O’Brien said.
He said then-Public Safety Director Christine Petersen told him there was a “two-track purpose” for the city: The first, “to get rid of Mooney.”
But, on cross-examination, O’Brien couldn’t recall whether the conversation happened before or after the layoffs and demotion plan had already been submitted to the state and approved.
When asked if it was after or why it would even be relevant, O’Brien replied: “I don’t know why the hell she told me about it, quite frankly.”
Also testifying was Capt. Tim Friel, who was in Internal Affairs when an anonymous claim that personnel files may have been illegally copied sparked an investigation.
When Mooney was questioned about the unknown complainant Monday, he said the city’s defense was wrongly suggesting he “phonied up” an investigation to help his claims.
Friel testified that it was looked into, but that — after a call was made to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office — it was determined that, even if the files were copied, the city had the right to them.
Former Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel will testify this morning before Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson.
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