Opening statements began this morning in a case former Atlantic City Police Chief John Mooney brought against Atlantic City.
State Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson instructed the eight-member jury selected Thursday to use common sense while listening to the facts of the case.
Mooney's attorney, John Donnelly, said the jury selection, which began Monday, was the most arduous he has ever encountered. He attributed some of the slow pace to the fact that he wanted to pick a "smart" jury.
"This is not the typical case that comes into this courthouse," Donnelly said. "This is a very serious case, which has a lot of consequences."
Mooney resigned in 2010 after learning that Mayor Lorenzo Langford planned to demote him. He is seeking financial damages and reinstatement as police chief.
In an opening statement that lasted more than an hour, Donnelly said Mooney's contract with the city entitled him to $435,000 in the case of termination. He will argue that Mooney is entitled to more than that amount because of other damages suffered, he said.
Donnelly said the contract will not be the central issue of the case. A separate court ruling has already determined that Mooney's contract was violated.
Instead, the case will focus on several disagreements Mooney had with Langford, including use of K-9s in patrol, Donnelly said. Mooney believes the decision to demote him was in part a retaliatory move.
In an equally long opening statement attorney William Lundsten, representing the city and former Public Safety Director Christine Petersen, argued that Mooney's demotion was a cost-saving measure. Layoffs extended across City Hall, and Mooney was not targeted in a conspiracy, he said.
Lundsten went on to paint Mooney as a man with a temper who was uncomfortable with the idea of reporting to a superior public safety director. Peterson was hired in March 2010 and became Mooney's superior.
"This case is about Mr. Mooney's desire to maintain hi authority and power. That's what this is about," Lundsten said.
Langford, who is named as a separate defendant, is being represented by attorney Robert Tarver.