GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP— For the second time in recent months the township has settled a lawsuit for $250,000, the latest involving an employee still on the payroll.
Jody Smith, currently an employee in the township Tax Assessor’s Office, filed a lawsuit against the township in February 2012 alleging that officials improperly eliminated her position of land-use administrator and zoning officer through the distortion of facts regarding the township Construction Office.
Smith signed the settlement agreement Dec. 21, according to a copy of the settlement provided by the township Clerk’s Office. The details of Smith’s settlement come after the township settled a separate lawsuit late last year with former township Clerk Lisa Tilton.
Tilton claimed in her suit that she was sexually harassed and saw her personal information illegally released. The township, which did not admit any guilt in the case, released details of that $250,000 settlement in early January.
Smith’s lawsuit, which was filed almost one year ago in Atlantic County Civil Court, alleged that township officials worked to “cover up, conceal and deceive the public” in connection with cutting costs in the budget in 2011.
On Feb. 22, 2011, when Smith’s position was eliminated, the township faced a $1.7 million budget shortfall. Former Mayor Keith Hartman said at the time that dissolving Smith’s position could save as much as $70,000. Smith was moved to a lower-paying position in the Tax Assessor’s Office.
Named in the lawsuit were township planner Tiffany Cuviello, former Manager Steve Bonanni, Hartman and current Mayor Don Purdy.
Thursday, Purdy declined to comment on the details of Smith’s settlement agreement but said two settlements totaling $500,000 so close together concerns him. Purdy called the two lawsuits and settlement agreements “two different animals”.
“I can’t even talk about the details of the settlement because I don’t know them. I believe the council should have voted on it before it was released. We should have had a resolution,” he said.
Smith’s settlement agreement states that of the $250,000 settlement, $56,417 will be paid to Smith’s attorney, Clifford L. Van Syoc, and $12,399 to attorneys Ionno and Higbee LLC.
A stipulation in the settlement agreement includes that payroll deductions for Smith will be lowered by $25,000. Details about the deductions were not available Thursday,
The remaining settlement balance of about $156,000 will be released to Van Syoc, who will pay the money to her within 30 days of the settlement.
The township’s Joint Insurance Fund will pay the settlements for both agreements, Purdy said.
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