Galloway officials released the details of its settlement with former Clerk Lisa Tilton Monday — paying the former employee who alleged sexual harassment and other illegal actions in the township $250,000.
The settlement, which the council agreed to at its Dec. 11 meeting, was not released until all the parties signed the official document. The township had refused to release details of the agreement until Monday.
The township continues to deny all of Tilton's claims, and the settlement is not an admission of guilt. In addition to the settlement payment Township Manager Arch Liston will supply a recommendation for future jobs, according to the settlement.
The township will also remove and have destroyed certain unspecified files that the settlement document blacked out.
Tilton worked for the township for 10 years — including three as clerk — before resigning in October 2011 after she returned from being improperly fired earlier that year, she said in the suit. She filed tort claims listing more than $6 million in damages.
Tilton declined to answer questions on the settlement Monday, but in a statement, Tilton said the settlement allows her to put the lawsuit behind her instead of it possibly dragging out for years.
"Although no settlement can replace the pride and unique experiences afforded by my former employment as the Township Clerk, I am very satisfied with the outcome of this matter," she said in the statement. "I was blessed to serve the community in which I was a longtime resident; it is indeed a special place filled with kind and engaging citizens who care deeply about their community."
Tilton also thanked people in the township for their support and said she hopes to return to a career in public service.
The township's attorney Mike Fitzgerald declined comment and referred questions to Liston, who did not return a call seeking comment.
Tilton claimed that she was sexually harassed and saw her personal information illegally released. She had sought back pay, damages and reinstatement to her former position.
Most of the claims in the suit revolved around former Township Manager Stephen Bonanni, whom Tilton claimed sexually harassed her, kept her from speaking to council and forced her resignation from the Planning Board. She also alleged Bonanni improperly conducted a search for a new chief financial officer so he could hire his friend.
She also claimed former Councilman Dennis Kleiner —- who resigned last summer after moving out of the township — sought retaliation against her because she did not support his choice of an engineering firm for the Planning Board. She said Kleiner also filed an improper harassment charge against her and spread false rumors about her personal life.
Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said he was happy to put the situation behind the township and noted Liston has been having training with department heads so the township will not be exposed to this type of situation again.
"It is extremely unfortunate to see taxpayer money being put out on lawsuits that could have been avoided," he said.
Coppola also noted that Bonanni is no longer with the township and the insurance company Indian Harbor Insurance Company pushed for the township to settle to avoid a higher judgment in court.
"Even with solid cases, they don't want to put it in the hands of a jury," he said. "It feels good just to get this behind us."
Kleiner said Tilton's lawsuit was meritless and 95 percent of it could be easily disproved in court.
"If this doesn't open peoples' eyes I don't know what will," he said. "If everything Tilton said happened, you don't settle. You go to court and get your money. After paying taxes and her attorney, what does she get?"
Kleiner said he wished the case had gone to court so the "truth would come out" but ultimately the council would have spent more on legal costs than the settlement.
"I feel vindicated. I don't lie and I never lied. This should be proof positive," he said. "She was and is good at her job and I wish her no ill will, but Lisa Tilton was not on the up and up with what she was saying."
Tilton has been unsuccessful in subsequent bids for employment. In Middle Township, emails revealed township officials were concerned about hiring her because of this litigation. She has since filed a tort claim there, reserving her right to sue.
Tilton referred question to her attorney Steven Srenaski who declined comment on the agreement.
Others named included the current Clerk T.C. Kay, former Clerk Karen Bacon and former Solicitor Mike Blee for allegedly releasing her personal information. Others, including Mayor Don Purdy, Coppola, and fellow council members Tom Bassford, Jim Gorman, Whitney Ullman and Brian Tyrrell, were accused of not stopping the allegedly illegal acts.
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