MILLVILLE - A former Millville police officer who accused other officers of harassing him because he is gay has settled his federal lawsuit for $415,000.
Robert Colle, now of Egg Harbor Township, alleged that the department's officers, including superiors, harassed him because he is homosexual. Colle also claimed he was targeted by some officers after he threatened to expose an on-duty romantic tryst involving a superior.
In his lawsuit, which he filed in October 2007, Colle claimed he was subjected to ridicule from other officers. He also alleged that police officers refused to back him up on a call involving a disorderly woman. The agitated woman bit his finger to the bone, according to the lawsuit.
Six officers were named in the suit: former police Chief Ron Harvey; Lt. Tom Romanishin; and police Sgts. Ronald Harvey, Edward Zadroga, Les Watson and Jody Farabella. The city was named for not taking proper steps to protect Colle, the filing said.
Farabella and Sgt. Harvey, son of the police chief, were later removed as defendants from the suit.
Colle's attorney Arthur J. Murray said the settlement occurred in May. As part of the agreement, Colle, who had been on leave since August 2007, resigned from the police department, Murray said. None of the police officers named in the suit was required to admit any wrongdoing, according to the settlement.
Of the total sum, $400,000 was paid by the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund. The remaining $15,000 was paid by workers' compensation for psychiatric, psychological or other bodily injury.
Colle joined the force in 1994. He first went to city officials with a complaint of harassment Nov. 7, 2006. He claimed superiors and the city ignored his complaints.
He filed his lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court, but the case was eventually transferred to the U.S. District Court.
Colle, through his attorney, declined to comment Tuesday. Murray said Colle wants put the entire ordeal behind him and move on.
Ron Harvey, who retired as police chief July 12, 2007, also declined to comment.
City Clerk Lew Thompson said the settlement was self-explanatory, and would not comment either.
The city has not revealed, despite requests by The Press of Atlantic City, whether any of the officers named in the lawsuit were disciplined. The city only has a legal responsibility to identify officers terminated as part of disciplinary action, according to Thompson.
All of the officers named, except for former Chief Ron Harvey, are still employed by the police department.
Since the lawsuit was filed, Romanishin was promoted to captain and Zadroga and Watson to lieutenants.
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