|Mayor Don Purdy|
Original Story (October 16, 2013):
Galloway Township News has obtained a lawsuit filed against Mayor Don Purdy and the Township of Galloway by Former Township Manager Stephen Bonanni.
Bonanni alleges Purdy tried to have the Township's Bid Process changed so his Towing Company could be awarded the work.
The lawsuit filed on September 26, 2013 in Atlantic County Superior Court alleges fourteen (14) counts which includes Breach of Contract, False Light Privacy Invasion, Defamation/Slander Pre Se and Conscientious Employee Protection Act, to name a few.
According to the filed complaint, Bonanni was an employee of the Township from June 25, 1979 until his retirement on January 31, 2012. During his employment, Bonanni earned sick and vacation days pursuant to Township Code and Laws of the State of New Jersey. Upon retirement unused sick/vacation time were to be paid to Bonanni in one lump sum.
On February 12, 2013, Council voted to deny Bonanni $51,765.24 of unused Vacation, Sick and Compensatory time. That denial resulted in a Tort Claim being filed against the Township, Mayor and Council on March 4, 2013.
Bonanni alleged in his complaint, "Through its agents and representatives, including but not limited to Mayor Donald Purdy, Galloway Township published false and defamatory statements by denying Plaintiff (Bonanni) earned sick/vacation pay upon retirement in a public forum, thereafter making statements about the denial in the press, which implies that Plaintiff had committed a criminal offense, constituting slander per se."
According to Galloway Patch, Mayor Don Purdy referenced allegations against the embattled former manager as a factor in the decision. “We need to look at our exposure,” Purdy said. “We acted in the best interest of the taxpayer.”
According to complaint filed, Bonanni alleges more than just not receiving his accrued time payout. On top of the Breach of Contract, Bonanni alleges violations of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
According to the complaint, Bonanni alleges, "on or about June 2010, plaintiff (Bonanni) was told by Defendant Mayor Donald Purdy to award certain Township vehicle repair bids to the towing company that was owned by the Mayor by changing the process by which these bids were awarded."
Bonanni alleges he refused to participate in the scheme as he believed it to be illegal and a Conflict of Interest. Mayor Donald Purdy was very upset about Bonanni's answer and his refusal to make changes in the bidding processes of the Township.
The complaint also alleges, "on or about February 15, 2011 Mayor Donald Purdy ordered plaintiff (Bonanni) to fire four employees and to reduce another employee from full-time to part-time status without cause and, on at least one occasion, Mayor Purdy and John Doe 1 pressured Plaintiff (Bonanni) to improperly release certain monies that had been placed in escrow for a sewer line installation on Route 30 in spite of the fact that the lines were not properly installed or in working order. On several occasions during Plaintiff's tenure as Township Manager, Mayor Don Purdy consistently violated the Faulkner Act by speaking directly to subordinate employees about Township matters, bypassing the chain of command in spite of Plaintiff's repeated warnings."
Bonanni states in the complaint the he refused to terminate the employees or change their employment status and also refused to improperly release money held in escrow in reference to the sewer line on Route 30 as Bonanni believed it to be illegal, unfair and unjust. Several sources have claimed that the sewer line on Route 30 is the sewer line installed at the Mayor's new business of Purdy Automotive.
Bonanni also claims Purdy was very upset about his refusal to terminate or change the status of the employees and extremely upset every time Bonanni cautioned him about violating the Faulkner Act.
Bonanni alleges the vote not to release the $51,765.24 of unused accured time was done so in act of retaliation as Bonanni would not participate in the activities that he felt were illegal and/or unjust causing him monetary loss, physical and psychological stress, and preventing him from obtaining employment elsewhere in his field.
Bonanni is represented by Galloway based attorney, Benjamin B. Brenner, Esq. Brenner confirmed with Galloway Township News, even though the Township finally voted to pay Bonanni, the damage was already done.
To our understanding the payment made to Bonanni was returned to the Township. Township Solicitor Michael Fitzgerald did not return our request for comment.
Due to the alleged illegal activity stated in the Lawsuit against Mayor Don Purdy and the Towsnhip, Galloway Township News has forwarded the Complaint to the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office for review.