A federal jury in Camden cleared the Atlantic City Board of Education of liability in a lawsuit filed by a former employee who claimed his job was eliminated as retaliation for not cooperating with political agendas.
Dewane Parker, the former district supervisor of security and truancy, was hired in 2001 and fired in June 2015 along with more than 220 other employees as part of larger budget cuts that year. Six months later, he filed a suit claiming he should have been rehired for a new position as coordinator of public safety, but was not notified when the job was posted.
After a two-week trial in Camden this month, the jury unanimously found that retaliation was not a motivating factor in the board’s decision to cut Parker’s position.
Superintendent Barry Caldwell, who was named in the suit, said in a statement following the trial the elimination of Parker’s job was the result of fiscal challenges the district was facing.
“These challenges affected numerous employees in the district,” Caldwell said. “However, we never lost sight of the commitment to providing the best education and opportunities to our students.”
Parker’s position was cut after former Education Commissioner David Hespe appointed state monitor Gary McCartney to oversee Atlantic City schools for one year. McCartney was tasked with drastically reducing the district’s budget, which was hit by a rapid decline in the city’s ratable base.
Parker was paid a $101,000 salary plus benefits in his position as security supervisor before the budget cuts. According to previous Press reports, the school board voted to restore him, but the state monitor overruled the vote.
Parker, who has since found work as an extra on crime television shows, was asking for his job back and compensatory and punitive damages.
An attorney representing Parker did not immediately return a request for comment regarding last week’s jury decision.
In a separate lawsuit Parker filed against the district, a judge ordered the board in 2016 to repay him $14,000 in overtime he earned for coordinating emergency efforts during Hurricane Sandy.