On November 16, 2015, the Township of Union (Union County) provided me with a draft of settlement agreement memorializing its intention to pay $125,000 to a local man who claimed that Union Township police entered his home without a warrant or probable cause and applied excessive force while falsely arresting him.

In his suit, Michael Pagliaroli claimed that he was arrested with unreasonable force on May 17, 2013 by Township Police Sergeant Barry Cohen, Officer Jason Brooks and Officers Ford and Penetra (presumably Timothy J. Ford and Marco J. Penetra).  The lawsuit contains no details regarding the nature or circumstance of the arrest or alleged excessive force.

The case is captioned Pagliaroli v. Township of Union et al, Union County Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-3475-13 and Pagliaroli’s attorney was Joel I. Rachmiel of Springfield.  The 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 Pagliaroli’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $125,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Union or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Union or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Pagliaroli $125,000 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]