On October 21, 2020, the Borough of Tinton Falls (Monmouth County) agreed to promote a police sergeant to lieutenant and pay him $35,000 for his attorney fees to settle his Law Against Discrimination (LAD) suit provided that he “submits an irrevocable retirement letter” effective February 1, 2022 and applies to the State for his pension.

In his lawsuit, Douglas McEntegart, who was hired in 1988, claimed that he drew his superiors’ ire because he openly supported and was sympathetic to then Lieutenant Kevin Pierson and Officer Thomas Dennehy who both filed whistleblower lawsuits against the Borough in 2012 and 2013. Pierson settled his suit in 2015 for $527,500 and agreed to retire. According to a February 6, 2017 article in the Asbury Park Press, Dennehy settled for $600,000 and was promoted to sergeant.

McEntegart claimed that he was retaliated against after he filed an unsuccessful disciplinary complaint against Patrolman Christopher Whalen. According to the lawsuit, Whalen was exonerated and McEntegart was transferred to “to the mall,” which “every officer views . . . as a punishment post” and was assigned to “one of the oldest vehicles in the fleet.” He claimed that he, a 26-year sergeant, was assigned to the “duties a first year officer could do” such as answering calls at the mall and enforcing parking. He claimed that he unsuccessfully pleaded with Chief John A. Scrivanic to remove him from the mall post.

According to the lawsuit, McEntegart’s schedule was changed to deprive him of getting overtime. He claimed that junior officers were placed in charge of patrols while he was left at the mall. McEntegart claimed that other officers would attend monthly meetings with mall managers which he considered evidence that his authority was being “completely stripped away.” He claimed that senior officers scrutinized him while he was on duty at the mall, circling the mall parking lot and parking in far off lots to observe him.

According to the Borough’s response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, McEntegart’s lieutenant’s salary is $189,047.

The case is captioned Douglas McEntegart v. Borough of Tinton Falls, et al, Docket No. MON-L-643-18 and McEntegart’ attorney was Richard P. Flaum of Warren. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, under which McEntegart agreed to “take no action which is intended or likely to result in publicity for this settlement.” 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 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 or official named in the lawsuit. All that is known for sure is that Tinton Falls or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather promote McEntegart and pay him $35,000 in attorney fees 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]