On June 7, 2012, the Township of Lawrence (Mercer County) agreed to pay $104,689.22 to a Township police officer who sued the Township for back pay for the time he was out of work waiting for a favorable disposition of criminal charges brought against him.

In his suit, Todd Sparks said that he was suspended without pay on March 16, 2010 after having been charged with third degree theft by deception.  The indictment against him was dismissed on April 26, 2011.  During his period of suspension, Sparks claims that he is due back salary, vacation days, uniform allowance and other benefits he would have received had he not been suspended.

The case is captioned Sparks v. Lawrence, Mercer County Superior Court Docket No. L-1746-11 and Sparks’s attorney was Christopher A. Gray of Marlton.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Sparks’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $104,689.22 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lawrence or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lawrence or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Sparks $104,689.22 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ 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 the defendants 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]