On August 10, 2009, David Szatkiewicz a police officer in Andover Township for 17 years, accepted $60,000 in settlement of his discrimination lawsuit against the Township of Andover (Sussex County).

In his suit, which was filed in January 2008, Szatkiewicz alleged that previous members of the Andover Township Committee and Police Chief Phillip Coleman retaliated against him for backing other candidates for Township Committee. The lawsuit alleges the chief once told Szatkiewicz he had “hitched his cart to the wrong horses.” In addition to the $60,000 settlement, Szatkiewicz received $19,557 of accumulated sick and vacation time, and $3,981 in holiday time. He also agreed to resign his position.

The case is captioned Szatkiewicz v. Township of Andover et al, Case No. 2:08-cv-00047-JAG-MCA . Szatkiewicz’s lawyer was Gregory F. Kotchnick of West Caldwell. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Szatkiewicz’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Andover, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Szatkiewicz and his lawyer $60,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Andover’s decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and Andover wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]