In response to my recent Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County), I visited City Hall on October 9, 2014 to review all the Tort Claims Notices filed against the City during the past three years. Whenever a local government official or employee causes personal injury or property damage, the claimant must file a “Tort Claim Notice” within 90 days after the incident and failure to timely file may be fatal to the claim.
I looked at a total of thirty-three filings. Twenty-three filings dealt with simple negligence actions where, for example, a person claimed that the City was negligent for not fixing a crack in a sidewalk that caused the claimant to trip and fall. The other ten claims, each of which are described below, dealt with something other than the City’s alleged passive negligence.
SETH DUPPIN’S AUGUST 9, 2011 CLAIM
Mr. Duppin, of Harvard Avenue, Bridgeton, claimed that Bridgeton Police, including Sergeant Angel Santiago and Patrolmen Crokus and Wright, injured him on May 13, 2011. I have located no lawsuit arising out of this claim. Mr. Duppin is represented by Lee J. Hughes of Vineland.
JAMES K. BRIGG’S MAY 11, 2012 CLAIM
Mr. Briggs, of Cronell Avenue, Bridgeton, a former employee of the Bridgeton Fire Department, claimed that he was wrongfully terminated from the Fire Department and that Chief David E. Schoch, Battalion Chief Bowen and others harassed, threatened and discriminated against him. I have located no lawsuit arising out of this claim. Mr. Briggs is represented by Stuart J. Alterman of Marlton.
ESTATE OF DESTINY M. SMITH’S JULY 12, 2012 CLAIM
Ms. Smith, who is deceased, claims that Bridgeton Police and Fire Departments were negligent in responding to an April 9, 2012 fire at 71 Church Street. I have located no lawsuit arising out of this claim. The estate is represented by Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.
STEPHEN P. KERNAN’S DECEMBER 7, 2012 CLAIM
Mr. Kernan, of Franklin Street, Bridgeton, claimed that the 2012 Annual Report of the City’s Historic District Commission and a statement on the Commission’s web site damaged his reputation and violated his right to privacy. The claim.was settled without a monetary payout. Details regarding the settlement are on-line here. Mr. Kernan is represented by John P. Morris of Bridgeton.
ROGELIO PEREZ-GOMEZ AKA ROGELIO GOMEZ-PEREZ’S JANUARY 28, 2013 CLAIM
Mr. Perez-Gomez, for whom no address is listed, claimed that he was “viciously assaulted” by Bridgeton Police and officers of the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office on November 30, 2012 at 76 Elmer Street, Bridgeton. I have located no lawsuit arising out of this claim. Mr. Perez-Gomez is represented by Elizabeth M. Trinidad of Bridgeton.
PHILLIP A. AND CHERYL DUBOSE’S APRIL 1, 2013 CLAIM
Mr. and Mrs. DuBose, for whom no address is listed, claimed that on February 20, 2013 Bridgeton Police stopped him on Wood Street, Bridgeton and applied excessive force upon him while arresting him for disorderly conduct, aggravated assault and resisting arrest. He alleges that the following officers were involved: a) Sergeant Richard Zanni, b) Sergeant Angel Santiago, c) Ptl. Joseph Camp, d) Ptl. Nicholas Caprio, e) Ptl. Joshua Soper and f) Det. Miguel Martinez.A lawsuit (on-line here) was filed in the United States District Court, Phillip A. and Cheryl Dubose v. Bridgeton Police, Case No. 1:14-cv-02209. Mr. and Mrs. DuBose are represented by Alfonso Gambone of Philadelphia.
JOSHUA A DAIRSOW, JR.’S MAY 10, 2013 CLAIM
Mr. Dairsow, of Mr. Vernon Street, Bridgeton, claimed that Police Sergeant Angel Santiago provided false information to Vineland Police upon which Detective Charles Cappelli relied, which cause Cappelli to stop Dairsow’s automobile, arrest him and apply excessive force upon him. I have located no lawsuit arising out of this claim. Mr. DeAngelis is represented by John P. Morris of Bridgeton.
JOSEPH P. DEANGELIS, JR.’S JULY 8, 2013 CLAIM
Mr. DeAngelis, of Central Avenue, Bridgeton, claimed that Police Sergeant Angel Santiago and Patrolman Jeffrey Scull caused a warrant to issue against him without probable cause existing. I have located no lawsuit arising out of this claim. Mr. DeAngelis is represented by John P. Morris of Bridgeton.
MARELLA LAWSON’S JULY 9, 2013 CLAIM
Ms. Lawson, of Third Avenue, Bridgeton, claimed that on April 20, 2013 she was assaulted by two male Bridgeton police officers. A lawsuit (on-line here) was filed in the United States District Court, Marella Lawson v. City of Bridgeton, Case No. 1:14-cv-00749-JBS-KMW. Ms. Lawson is represented by Gregg L. Zeff of Mt. Laurel.
ANGEL L. SANTIAGO’S NOVEMBER 23, 2013 CLAIM
Mr. Santiago, a former Bridgeton Police Sergeant, claimed race-based harassment and retaliation from Police Chief Mark W. Ott. He claimed that he was removed from his position of sergeant and placed on administrative leave in retaliation for filing an internal affairs complaint regarding Lt. Filippello and Detective Zanni. He claimed that he was forbidden to have contact with the following six City employees: a) Ptl. Veronica Cheeseman, b) Ptl. Deena Bertoli, c) Ptl. Roger Worley, d) TCO Carolyn Dover, e) TCO Kelly Queen and f) Frances Tabora. He also claimed that Ott required him to “report any absence from his home to Sgt. Tom Speranza or Jason Hovermann.” He claimed to have been punished disproportionately, as compared to others, for an excessive force complaint and that baseless sexual harassment charges have been filed against him. Mr. Santiago is represented by Stuart J. Alterman of Marlton.