On May 23, 2012, the Township of Lawrence (Mercer County) agreed to pay $25,250.61 to former Township police officer who claimed that the police department refused to promote him to police sergeant due to him being African-American.

In his suit, John Glenn, who has served as a Lawrence Township office for 17 years, alleged that had he been promoted, he would have been the first African-American or other minority to attain the rank of sergeant or above.  According to Glenn’s complaint, Lawrence Township’s police force of 67 had, as of 2005, only 7 African-American officers. 

As part of the settlement, the Township also agreed to help Glenn obtain a disability pension and retiree medical benefits from the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS).

The case is captioned Glenn v. Lawrence Township Police Department, Federal Case No. 3:10-cv-03121 and Glenn’s attorney was Daniel S. Sweetser of Lawrenceville.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public’s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Glenn’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,250.61 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 Glenn $25,250.61 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]