On April 11, 2014, the Township of Neptune (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $660,000 to two female police officers who sued the Township and the Township’s police officials for sexual harassment.  Each officer settled for $330,000.

In their suit, Christine Savage and Elena Gonzalez complained that they were discriminated against, denied training opportunities and passed over for promotion because they were female.  The also alleged that Captain Michael Emmons engaged in inappropriate sexually-related speech and conduct such as “gesturing as if he was masturbating and shooting at officers with his penis saying ‘Pow, pow, pow'” and announcing in front of Savage, Gonzalez and other officers that he had “fisted” another officer’s wife.  They complained that upper level police management, including former Chief Robert Adams and Deputy Chief James Hunt, dismissed their concerns and told them to “get used to it” and “that is the culture here.”

As part of the settlement, the Township agreed to promote Savage to sergeant effective May 1, 2014. It also agreed to provide Savage with training and education courses.

The case is captioned Savage and Gonzalez v. Neptune, Monmouth County Superior Court Docket No. L-4899-13 and Savage’s and Gonzalez’s attorney was Nancy Erika Smith of Montclair.  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 Savage’s and Gonzalez’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $660,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Neptune or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Neptune or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Savage and Gonzalez $660,000 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]