Monday, April 28, 2014

Confidential Investigative Report Against Hamilton Township Committeewoman Aline Dix Released with Lawsuit

Committeewoman Aline Dix
On April 17, 2014 a lawsuit was filed in Atlantic County Superior Court by Pitman based Attorney Sebastian Ionna on behalf of Hamilton Township Committeewoman Aline Dix. The lawsuit was filed against Township Administrator Michael S. Jacobs, Mayor Roger Silva, Deputy Mayor Amy Gatto and Mary Kelly from Human Resources.

Dix was elected to Hamilton Township Committee in November 2011 and alleges in the verified complaint that she was retaliated against and further violated of her substantive rights under the New Jersey Constitution and New Jersey Statues. Dix also alleges the retaliation has created a hostile and retaliatory work environment. 

Now, a 13-page Confidential Report has been obtained that further details the complaints against Committeewoman Aline Dix that were asserted by several employees, including Township Administrator Michael Jacobs. 

Dix alleges the complaints against her were conspired in an effort to retaliate for her conduct under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

Although some may read the report and describe it as a soap opera, there certainly are plenty of issues going on behind the great doors of the Hamilton Township Municipal Complex. 

The report was completed by Attorney James R. Birchmeier who was appointed as the Township's Conflict Labor Counsel. Birchmeier was charged with duties to "engage in a fact finding process" "concerning incidents involving  Committeewoman Aline Dix."

Birchmeier reviewed several documents and conducted interviews, of which included Chief of Police Stacy Tappeiner, Township Administrator Michael Jacobs, Township employee Lea Brower, CFO Cindy Lindsay and Township Clerk Joan Anderson. Birchmeier also documented that he spoke with Deputy Mayor Amy Gatto and Mayor Roger Silva concerning the status of the fact finding investigation.

According to the report, Jacobs candidly admitted that he has had a difficult time working with Committeewoman Dix. Jacobs previously submitted his resignation due to the fact that Committeewoman Dix accused him of mismanagement. After a meeting was held with Township Solicitor Robert Sandman, Jacobs and Dix, Jacobs withdrew his letter of resignation. Afterwards, Birchmeier indicated Jacobs feels as if he is being retaliated against by Committeewoman Dix, especially since the events of "November 19, 2013."

The report indicates that several employees were concerned regarding comments Committeewoman Dix made during the course of a Township Committee Meeting. Comments that Birchmeier determined were not specifically directed at any employee, although Dix's comments could certainly be construed as insensitive.

In the same meeting, Chief of Police Stacy Tappeiner was also concerned regarding comments made by Dix. Chief Tappeiner felt that his rights as an employee were violated when he believed comments made by Dix were directed at him. Specifically that he felt "Ms. Dix's comments were directed at him and accused him of having no understanding of the troubles people are going through and that he doesn't care." Tappenier felt that the accusations were directed towards him and that they were false and could tarnish his reputation, according to the report. 

The report also states that CFO Cindy Lindsay believed she has been on the "radar" since Committeewoman Dix was elected. Although she does not know the reason why, she does not feel intimidated by Dix. According to Lindsay, some employees may feel "bullied" by her (Dix). Birchmeier also documented that Lindsay did take the remarks of Dix from the November 19th meeting, personally.

Township Clerk Joan Anderson is documented as saying "she felt bad for the employees."

Committewoman Aline Dix was interviewed in the presence of her then Attorney Eileen Oaks Muskett. Dix defended her comments from the November 19th meeting and indicated she is "passionate in sticking up for the taxpayers of the Township of Hamilton."  In the interview an audio portion of the Committee Meeting in question was played and determined "no single Township employee was singled out."

Birchmeier detailed in his report that "it is evident that Committeewoman Dix has a difference of opinion with Mr. Jacobs concerning a variety of issues, including the Administrator's authority and the way he disseminated information."

During the interview Committeewoman Dix objected to the fact that "everything must go through Jacobs." Dix asserted that she is responsible for the quality of life/smart growth and she believes that she is being "left out" and she should be involved in the quality of life issues, according to the report.

The report concludes in some areas that a formal investigation is not warranted. However, the report does state that Committeewoman Dix should be counseled as to the appropriate chain of comment in obtaining information from Township employees. 

As it pertains to the conflicts with the Township Manager, the report concluded with Birchmeier stating, "looking at the "totality of circumstances" and the repeated public comments made by Committeewoman Dix, especially as it relates to the job performance of Township Administrator Jacobs, I do believe a formal investigation should be instituted concerning the actions of Committeewoman Dix pursuant to Section 6M of the Township Policies and Procedures Handbook. In my opinion, this investigation should include the Township General Anti-Harassment Policy Section 2D; Whistleblower Policy Section 2E and Section 6O, Workplace Violence Policy."

The conflicts with the Township Administrator were left that "it only appears that it is a matter of time before a formal complaint is lodged if these incidents are not investigated promptly."

The report also outlines other employee complaints regarding times when Dix would request information from employees instead of through the Township Administrator. The Township, through their Human Resource employee issued a letter banning Committeewoman Dix from the Municipal Complex. A building which is a Public building, further asserted Dix was not permitted to enter without first notifying the Administrator's Executive Assistant 24-hours prior to access. 

Also released are the individual employee complaints, Closed Session Minutes and associated emails and documents also obtained with this Lawsuit. 


Anonymous said...

Sounds to me someone went door to door with the employees begging for complaints so it would derail the re-election campaign of Aline Dix. These complaints are frivolous and Mr. Birchmeier is probably just waiting for a lawsuit since he works for the Joint Insurance Fund. Someone needs to examine the heads of the employees since none have thick skin, including Jacobs. Maybe he should just resign again.

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't Exhibit D attached?

Publisher said...

Exhibit D refers to a memorandum written by Lea Brower, Police Executive Assistant to Chief Stacy Tappeiner on January 2, 2014. The accusations in the letter are written based on hearsay and not with immediately knowledge or proof. Nor was it part of the "fact finding" responsibilities of the Conflict Labor Counsel to investigate. Accusations were unable to be verified.

Anonymous said...

Isn't most of Dix' complaint hearsay? Why don't you consider that Brower alleges that Dix spoke of her employment at a local bar? Very professional.

Anonymous said...

P>S. Anonymous, Dix voted for Birchmeier as did 2 Democrat Committee people.

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