On September 25, 2020, the Township of Deptford (Gloucester County) agreed to quietly pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former black employee who claimed that he was repeatedly referred to as “boy” and subjected to other racist comments.

In his lawsuit, Lamar Johnson claimed that beginning in 2017, he was “subjected to various acts of racial discrimination” such as being repeatedly called “boy.” He also claimed that his co-workers made a comment regarding “placing a chain around [Johnson] and letting him swing” and that a supervisor claimed that he “looks like someone in Philadelphia with his hood on and that he was looking for rape.” He also claimed that his pay was “appreciably below non-African American personnel.”

As part of the settlement, Johnson, who separated from employment with Deptford prior to filing his lawsuit in July of 2019, agreed never to seek reemployment with the Township.

The case is captioned Lamar Johnson v. Deptford Township, et al, Docket No. GLO-L-822-19 and Johnson’s attorney was Richard M. Pescatore of Vineland. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause which prevents Johnson from publicly disclosing the terms or even the existence of the settlement agreement. 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 officials named in the lawsuit. All that is known for sure is that Deptford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Johnson $300,000 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 paff@pobox.com