Public Comment at City Council Meeting 2/13/14
A recent headline in an Ocean City news service shocked and outraged me: the arrogance and total absence of morality in the conduct of our Mayor, his administration and Councilmen. It is their misuse of public dollars and indifference to public safety.
“OC pays ex-con $13,131 to end K9 Lawsuit.”
The settlement signed 12/20/13 dismissed Mr. Petnick’s complaint against OC and 4 OC Police Officers: Koob, Fearnhead, Vogt and Campo.
The settlement includes no admission of liability on the part of the city or the officers.
To recount this event took place on 2/26/10. The 4 officers were responding to notification by the ISP that Mr. Petnick had an outstanding warrant and was likely to be found at his Mother’s home on Simpson Ave. Mr. Petnick says he was apprehended, held at gunpoint, handcuffed then dragged onto the alley where the officers released their K9, Deuce.
Mr. Petnick’s suit claimed that his constitutional rights against the use of excessive force were violated. It also claims that the city routinely tolerates such actions.
“Defendant OC’s indifference is demonstrated by a pattern carried out by officers and the failure of Internal Affairs to investigate and sustain legitimate and bona fide instances of (police) assault.”
The lawyer representing Mr. Petnick was Josph C. Grassi of Wildwood. The release signed by Mr. Grassi indicates that he will be paid $10,868.57, an amount nearly equal to his client. All coming from the citizen’s tax dollars. Who was Mr. Grassi serving?
Other recent settlements show a similar pattern:
1) 3 Sanitation Dept. employees received $83,000 apiece (Total $249,000) to settle a racial discrimination suit against the city and a sanitation dept. supervisor, Keith Washington. Once again no admission of guilt or wrongdoing. No accountability.
2) Deputy Fire Chief Mark McCulley was given $222,633.54 to silence his complaint against the OCFD for wrongful suspension in what the city called “misappropriating funds.”
3) $60,000 tax dollars paid to another victim of K9 police dog attack. Reason was the same old boilerplate excuse: “to avoid the cost and uncertainty of a trial involving a lawsuit.”
4) $50,000 to Michael Hamilton who alleged that the beach patrol used a “series of discriminatory and retaliatory acts to drive him and other older lifeguards from the beach patrol.” Settlement includes no admission of guilt from any of the defendants. It instructs all parties to not disclose, either directly or indirectly, any information whatsoever relating to the existence or substance of the agreement to any person or entity, including but not limited to members of the media.”
These non-disclosure terms are routine in settlement agreements but NJ Courts have consistently upheld the Public’s Right to Know in case that involve public entities such as Police, Sanitation and Fire Departments.
OC taxpayers will ultimately pay for all these settlements through increased premiums to JIF which insures the city.
The settlement frenzy must be stopped by the citizens especially when Public Safety is at stake.
Is it reasonable to expect and demand a city government that actually serves and protects its citizens not like the empty words painted on Police cars.
Is it possible to have an OC of, by and for all the people and not just the” insiders.”
The only hope for meaningful change is that citizens start paying attention and good, independent people seek elected office. Then on 5/10/14 people vote their interests and not those of the special interests.
Steven Fenichel, MD