BRIGANTINE — A police captain who was stripped of his acting chief title within a month of being appointed to the position has filed suit against the city.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Superior Court, alleges City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal demoted then-acting Chief Ray Cox in violation of local and state law “without any specification of charges, right to hearing ... and without any adjudication of misconduct.”
Cox, who’s served in the department for 24 years, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees for the suit and to be restored as acting chief. He’s also seeking a court order barring Blumenthal from “direct encroachment and interference” into the duties of the police chief.
According to the suit, recent retirements and promotions had resulted in several vacancies in the Police Department’s leadership structure. When Blumenthal left for vacation on April 29 with those positions still vacant, Cox appointed officers to fill the positions on a temporary basis “in order to properly staff the command personnel.”
On May 14, a week after Blumenthal’s return, Cox was informed that he was “fired” during a meeting with Blumenthal and the city’s attorneys. According to the suit, Blumenthal then issued memoranda and a proclamation declaring Cox’s “demotion.”
In the suit, Cox claims that Blumenthal acted in violation of local and state law, in addition to the city’s own promotion policies.
“The law was violated and we’re not just going to sit back and take it,” Cox said Tuesday, referring all further questions to his attorney.
Blumenthal said Tuesday that Cox “made these promotions without approval of the point of authority, which was myself.”
Cox was stripped of his acting chief title — not demoted — upon the recommendation of the city’s labor attorney, she said, declining to comment further about the allegations.
Brigantine’s Police Department is currently operating without a chief following the April retirement of former Chief John Stone and the hiring last month of an interim public safety director.
Dan Howard, a retired Mount Laurel, Burlington County, police lieutenant, now oversees administration, including budgets and scheduling, of the city’s various emergency operations. As captain, Cox is still responsible for many of his department’s day-to-day operations.
Blumenthal said she plans to make a determination about whether to appoint chiefs or hire a permanent public safety director in September.
“Everything’s being considered right now,” she said. “I’ll make the decision I feel is best for the community and the employees as a whole.”
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