VINELAND — City Council members said Tuesday that they opted to sue Mayor Ruben Bermudez out of frustration with his plan to rehire former Police Department Detective Gamaliel “Gami” Cruz.
City Council President Anthony Fanucci said the lawsuit followed Bermudez’s rejection of the panel’s opposition to a process that could result in Cruz’s returning to duty.
“We asked him a number of times to work it out,” Fanucci said of rehiring Cruz. “We knew this would be an option.”
City Council eventually filed its lawsuit, which names Bermudez and Cruz as defendants, in Superior Court on Oct. 1.
Bermudez did not respond to a request from The Press of Atlantic City for comment.
Cruz was dismissed from the Police Department in May 2012. The action followed a finding by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office that Cruz lied to a judge about a confidential informant out of concern for the informant’s safety. The Prosecutor’s Office wound up dismissing 39 cases in which Cruz took out search warrants or was a principal witness.
However, Bermudez in May ordered the dropping of the administrative charges that led to Cruz’s dismissal. Bermudez, who said he is a longtime friend of Cruz, said Cruz should have been disciplined, but not fired, for his actions. Bermudez said Cruz was to begin working for the Police Department on July 15 with desk job that would pay about $90,000 annually.
Cruz did not begin working for the city on July 15. City officials said the municipality’s Department of Personnel had no documents, including those from the state Civil Service Commission, necessary to allow for Cruz’s rehiring.
In its lawsuit filed in Superior Court earlier this month, City Council charges that Bermudez improperly dismissed the administrative charges and altered Cruz’s final disciplinary notice. City Council contends any action Bermudez took in connection with Cruz should be negated because of Bermudez’s longtime friendship with Cruz.
City Council wants a court order that bars Bermudez from taking further action regarding the Cruz matter. The governing body also wants Cruz’s administrative charges reinstated, and a ruling that Bermudez’s altering of Cruz’s final disciplinary notice was unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Cruz has his own lawsuit pending against the city.
Cruz charges in his lawsuit that, since Bermudez dismissed the administrative charges, he is essentially “suspended without charges.” Cruz is demanding to be reinstated as a detective.
Both Cruz’s and City Council’s lawsuits are being handled in Superior Court in Gloucester County.
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