Mooney trial

Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford testifies Wednesday during the trial in ex-Police Chief John Mooney's lawsuit against the city, former public safety director Christine Petersen and Mayor Lorenzo Langford.

Michael Ein

ATLANTIC CITY — Jurors soon will decide whether the city’s former police chief is right in his claim that a planned demotion was retaliation for him acting as a whistle-blower.

But first, the court must determine what the city meant when it called John Mooney’s former position “redundant and nonessential,” only to have it refilled months later by the current chief, Ernest Jubilee.

Mayor Lorenzo Langford testified Thursday that the 2010 plan that included demoting Mooney and others always was understood to be temporary.

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“It was widely publicized that this was a temporary measure,” Langford said, adding that he did not speak with Mooney directly.

Mooney’s suit alleges the plan, which eventually included 60 police layoffs,  was an attempt to oust him. He retired in May 2010 to avoid the move, rather than risk lowering his pension.

The discussion of the plan’s intention came after jurors were allowed to submit written questions after the lawyers were done asking their questions. The focus was on the wording of a letter city Solicitor Steve Glickman sent to the Civil Service Commission in getting rid of the chief’s position.

“As the CEO of Atlantic City, how could you allow Mr. Glickman to say the chief’s position was ‘redundant and nonessential?'" Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson read from one questionnaire.

Langford said that, as the chief executive officer, he entrusts those with expertise, such as Glickman, to make the right determinations.

Because Civil Service uses specific wording, Johnson said he would make sure the jurors receive the proper definition when they are given their instructions Tuesday, after closing arguments.

Meanwhile, he and the lawyers will meet Friday to finalize what the instructions will be, including giving them a timeline that shows when the department went from having no police chief to an acting police chief to Jubilee as chief when the position was reinstated.

Langford — the final witness to testify in the case — also spoke about investigations into claims against the city’s police dogs and allegations of sexual misconduct in a city firehouse.

Langford said it was then-Business Administrator Michael Scott who decided the dogs should be taken off the streets in July 2009, when complaints were made by the public during a City Council meeting.

Langford said he never was given any information about the investigation, including whether any wrongdoing was found, and did not know what led to then-Public Safety Director Christine Petersen’s decision to return the dogs.

The dogs were off the street for more than seven months before Petersen came into the position, and then began her investigation.

The mayor said the solicitor’s office originally was asked to do the job, but then the solicitor at the time — Robert Tarver, who is representing the mayor in this trial — left the office.

Langford also defended his hiring of Petersen during a City Council-imposed hiring freeze, saying the $90,000-per-year position was necessary to help set policy for the department and end what appeared to be mismanagement of resources, including overtime pay for officers working traffic detail while other officers were working inside in jobs that could be handled by civilian employees.

Langford's testimony also revealed that former city Weights and Measures Director Mark Hamilton, who forfeited the job as a condition of dropping a marijuana possession charge, now is a food-service worker for the city.

A juror asked what Langford’s policy is regarding the hiring of ex-offenders. He said that as long as they have served their time and “they haven’t committed atrocities against minors or sexual offenses or the charge wasn’t murder, you get a chance to compete.”

He insisted he did not know former All Wars Memorial Building Supervisor Akbar Malik Salaam was dealing drugs while working and from his city-issued car.

The mayor said if he had known, he would have called police himself.

Contact Lynda Cohen:


@LyndaCohen on Twitter

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