On December 3, 2018, the Township of Bedminster (Somerset County) agreed to pay $450,000 to a police officer the Township Committee voted to suspend with pay on October 2, 2017.  Of the $450,000, $150,000 was paid by the Township and the other $300,000 was paid by the Township’s insurance carrier.

In his lawsuit, John A. Dapkins, Jr., a 16-year veteran of the Bedminster Police Department, brought a litany of claims against the Township’s police department and Sergeants Nanci Arraial and Chief Karl Rock.  According to his lawsuit, Dapkins, who said that he had extensive firearms training, claimed that he resigned his Firearms Instructor position after being “forced” to certify Arraial and two other officers as being proficient in Use of Force and Self-Defense “even though they were not capable of completing the standard.”  Arraial allegedly became the Firearms Instructor in 2014, even though the then police chief knew “that she wasn’t qualified to assume such duties,” according to the lawsuit. Dapkins claimed that “Arraial was teaching the wrong instruction courses and was not qualified to do so.”

Dapkins claimed that after his complaints to his supervisor, Chief Karl Rock, were ignored, he brought his complaints that “Arraial did fraudulently qualify multiple members of the Bedminster Police Department from 2014 to the Fall of 2016” to the Internal Affairs unit which referred them to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.  He said that the Prosecutor’s Office validated his complaints by requiring the Police Department to requalify everyone.  According to Dapkins’ lawsuit, “Arraial [received] overtime monies to complete the qualifications she improperly performed in the first place.”

Dapkins also claimed that Rock told him “to go no further” pursuing the Department’s alleged failure to complete the correct radar training “since it could void summonses, open the town to civil suits and bad press.”  Dapkins further accused Arraial of slandering him by “describing untrue homosexual acts between [Dapkins] and Detective Sergeant Smith of the Bernardsville Police Department.”  He claimed that Arraial repeatedly acted in a sexually hostile manner and once made “sexually explicit comments about [another officer’s] penis” and replicated “a sexual act to Officer Greenstein in the presence of children from the Bedminster elementary school on a school-sponsored trip to Dorney Park, PA.”

Dapkins claimed that after his repeated complaints were ignored by the chain of command, he went in mid-2016 to Township Administrator Judith Sullivan.  Going to Sullivan, he claimed, resulted in Rock issuing a retaliatory directive.  Many more allegations are recited in the lengthy lawsuit.

Also named in the lawsuit were Rock, Sergeant Francesco Bernardo and Robert Verry.  Verry, a former South Bound Brook Police Chief, was hired by the Township to conduct an investigation regarding internal affairs complaints filed against Dapkins.  Dapkins claimed that Verry “is a known friend of” Rock and that his report, which caused Dapkins’ suspension, was “replete with innuendo, false statements, unsupported allegations, misrepresentations of fact, and . . . flagrant omissions” and “can be concluded to be the result of a conspiracy between” Verry and Township officials.  Verry filed a cross-claim against the Township and is presently seeking to recover his legal fees because “the Township wrongfully refused to defend” him from Dapkins’ lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, Dapkins agreed not to disparage Bedminster or any of its officials and not to “seek any publicity or make any statement to the media” regarding this lawsuit except to say that “The matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.”  The Township agreed to dismiss “any and all pending disciplinary charges against Dapkins.”

According to a December 10, 2018 e-mail from Bedminster Clerk Judith A. Sullivan, Dapkins, who was hired by the Township on April 16, 2002, earned a 2018 salary of $114,002.38.

The case is captioned Dapkins v. Township of Bedminster et al, Somerset County Superior Court Docket No. SOM-L-1298-16 and Dapkins was represented by Robert B. Woodruff of Scotch Plains. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here

None of lawsuit’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Bedminster and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay $450,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision 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 resolve 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]