An Atlantic City police Internal Affairs investigation into possible tampering with confidential police files became the central topic of discussion in John Mooney’s fifth full day on the witness stand in Superior Court, Atlantic City.
After being questioned at length by the city’s defense Monday morning about the validity of an anonymous note that triggered the investigation, Mooney told the court the city’s defense was wrongly suggesting he had “phonied up” an investigation to perpetuate his claims against the city.
Mooney, the city’s former police chief, has sued the city, alleging he was targeted for a demotion in 2010 because he was a whistle-blower against the city administration. Mooney’s attorney, John Donnelly, has argued that in one such instance in 2010, the former police chief temporarily blocked a city order to move the Police Department’s personnel files so that former Atlantic City Public Safety Director Christine Petersen could more easily access them.
While Petersen had a right to access personnel information, Mooney said, there was a strong possibility that Internal Affairs information that should have been kept separate might have been commingled in the files. At the time that the city was trying to move the files, the department was engaged in an Internal Affairs investigation triggered by an anonymous note saying someone had accessed the files and was copying sensitive information.
“It doesn’t matter to me if if the complaint came from Joe Bag of Doughnuts or the Vatican,” Mooney said, stressing that all complaints, anonymous or otherwise, have to be investigated.
Mooney has testified that he did not alert Mayor Lorenzo Langford or Petersen about the investigation when he tried to stop the files from being moved. Instead, he contacted then-Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel, who sent his staff to the Public Safety Building to oversee the process of removing any Internal Affairs information from the files.
Defense attorneys, however, have questioned how the investigation into the files was brought on and why the issue wasn’t disclosed to Langford or Petersen.
Former city Solicitor Robert Tarver, who is representing Langford, questioned why Mooney decided to get Housel involved in the issue with the files rather than attempting to work out the problem directly with those at City Hall.
“(Petersen) might have understood your problem if you just talked to her,” Tarver said.
Attempting to show that Mooney had been building his lawsuit against the city for more than a year, Tarver showed the jury a letter written from Mooney to Langford in February 2009 that was copied to his attorney. The letter stated Mooney’s objection to the Lanford administration’s decision to hire Daniel Smith, a convinced felon, as a uniformed crossing guard in the Police Department.
Mooney told the mayor that convicted felons could not be employed in the Police Department for security reasons; Langford responded the same day and terminated the employee. Smith is the nephew of City Council President William “Speedy” Marsh, Mooney told the court Monday.
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