FOLSOM — The borough is facing three lawsuits against city officials, and legal fees and potential settlements could amount to more than the borough’s entire $1.4 million annual budget.
Borough Council President Ben Pagano said he knows of three more potential lawsuits against the borough but is working with legal counsel to mediate them before they are filed. He said the three lawsuits already filed will be covered by insurance, but he has been notified the borough’s deductible could rise, thus raising taxes on residents.
“We’re not sure what the final numbers will be, but I’m very concerned about this,” he said.
The first lawsuit was filed by Joseph Campellone, a former Public Works employee. Campellone claims in the lawsuit that he was fired from his job in May 2015 because he reported that another employee posed a danger to himself and the public.
Mayor Lou DeStefano, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, allegedly told Campellone that “he doesn’t fit in” at the Public Works Department and that was the reason for his termination, according to the lawsuit.
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DeStefano said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Campellone claims the mayor cannot hire or fire a borough employee without a resolution from Borough Council. After requesting a public hearing on his job status, Campellone claims in the lawsuit that the council had an executive session with the mayor and then fired him minutes after they returned to the meeting.
The lawsuit claims there is no recording of the executive session where council decided to fire Campellone, which came as a surprise to Pagano.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we didn’t record an executive session,” he said, noting that he was out of town during that meeting because of a family emergency.
The second litigation against the borough is from a current employee. The employee, Catherine DeYoung, alleges DeStefano improperly monitored her and other employees during working hours through the security cameras in the borough’s municipal building.
“Mayor DeStefano has intentionally violated the surveillance policy of the Borough and the Borough has acquiesced in his tortuous and unconstitutional conduct and was negligent in the training of DeStefano and deliberately indifferent to the rights of its employees,” the lawsuit claims.
DeYoung is asking for monetary relief or the removal of the camera in Borough Hall.
The third suit claims that a councilman prevented a competing business from expanding.
Joseph and Cathleen Berenato, owners of Collings Lake Food Market in Folsom, allege Councilman Charles Arena sabotaged their effort to obtain a liquor license and expand their business because he runs a competing business called Bell Liquor Store.
Arena said he could not comment on ongoing litigation.
Pagano said he worries about the ripple effects the lawsuits could cause throughout the borough.
“We may have to raise taxes,” he said. “Our insurance is going to go up. It’s just a frustrating time.”