On February 18, 2015, the Cape May County Special Services School District, the Upper Township School District and the privately owned Sheppard Bus Service, Inc. agreed to pay $19,000 to a former school bus aide who said he was fired in retaliation for him having filed a previous lawsuit against another school district.

In his suit, Charles Donald Young said that in 2009 he settled a 2007 lawsuit against the Lower Cape May Regional School District because he was “regularly subjected to written and oral harassment” based on the Lower district’s employees’ “characterization of him as a homosexual” even though he is a heterosexual male.  Young claimed that shortly after he settled his suit against Lower, Upper and the Special Services School District, together with Sheppard, worked together to remove him from his position.  Young claimed that any grievances that had been filed against him were based on unfounded allegations and that the real reason for his firing was to retaliate against him for having brought his case against the Lower district.

The case is captioned Young v. Cape May County Special School District, et al, Docket No. CPM-L-189-12 and Young’s attorney was Joseph C. Grassi of Wildwood.  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 Young’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $19,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Cape May County Special Services School District, the Upper Township School District, Sheppard Bus Service, Inc. or any of their officials. All that is known for sure is that the defendants or their insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Young $19,000 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]