The Township of Hillside won a significant victory against a former police captain earlier this week.
According to court documents obtained by RLS Media, The Honorable Superior Court Judge Alan G. Lesnewich declared that former Mayor Angela Garretson acted appropriately in choosing the Hillside Police Chief in 2017.
According to the December 1 court judgment, the controversy arose after the captain was rejected for Garretson's Chief position.
The former Mayor stated that “the personnel structure was reminiscent of the good old boys’ network that had been in place throughout the 20th century.” She also recognized that the department lacked women in upper leadership.
The judgment confirmed Captain Lomonte’s case raised claims of unlawful retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Based on the substantial evidence and credible testimony from Mayor Garretson, the Union County Judge dismissed the case of Nicola Lomonte v. Township of Hillside, indicating that the matter had no basis.
According to the document, the court found that Hillside clearly articulated a legitimate business reason that Captain Lomonte was not promoted to Chief. “In the court’s opinion, there is not a scintilla of evidence in the trial record that would support the conclusion that Mayor Garretson unlawfully strayed when she bypassed Captain Lomonte.”
Court documents said Mayor Garretson provided the multi-faceted reason.
"Based upon Mayor Garretson's interaction and understanding of the candidate's experience and personal skills, she concluded that Lieutenant Ricciardi had better leadership ability/potential/style and was a “better fit” for the Hillside Police Department.
Mayor Garretson's testimony was that there was no reason to review the candidates’ files as he trusted Hillside's promotional system.
Both candidates had been promoted multiple times and, therefore, both candidates must logically have had the background, training, and experience to be promoted, the court determined. "On that basis, the case was dismissed'.
By following Garretson’s lead to oppose any monetary settlement and proceed to trial, the Township records showed that the decision saved over half a million dollars in damages, fees, and costs.
Although not stated in the court documents, sources close to the investigation said the case's claims were believed to be politically motivated by police brass and their associates against the former Mayor.
According to the source, the lawsuit brought forward by Captain Lamonte was an alleged attempt to 'end' Mayor Garretson’s political career.
Later, mayor Garretson gained a seat on the Union County Freeholder Board immediately after her mayoral term ended in 2017. In the November 3, 2020, election, she was a top vote-getter in the County.
Hillside Township officials could not be reached for a statement on The Honorable Superior Court Judge Alan G. Lesnewich's decision.