On May 13, 2022, the Business Administrator of a Salem County borough resigned from his position. Two weeks later, he and Borough officials quietly executed a “Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release” under which the former BA would not pursue his “allegations of improper actions initiated by members of the Borough Council” in exchange for a $70,000 payout.

The former Business Administrator is Sean Brown who was employed by the Borough of Penns Grove from March 29, 2021 until his May 13, 2022 resignation. Until Brown quietly resigned, he was making an annual salary of $70,000. According to the Borough’s July 22, 2022 response to an Open Public Records Act request, Brown had not yet filed a lawsuit or tort claim notice setting forth his allegations.

No details of the nature of the Borough Council members’ alleged “improper actions” can be gleaned from the agreement. The agreement states only that Council members “violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act for which [Brown] has alleged that he will seek damages” and that the $70,000 will compensate Brown “for allegations of physical manifestations of emotional distress.”

The agreement contains a “confidentiality and non-disclosure” clause which requires Brown and Borough officials to “keep confidential and . . . make no voluntary disclosure of the terms of this Agreement and/or the existence thereof” and also prevents them from disclosing “either directly or indirectly, any information whatsoever regarding the alleged factual basis for any and all of the claims against Defendants which are the subject of this Agreement, the Incident and/or the allegations as referenced herein.”

Borough officials “have denied and continue to deny all the material allegations asserted by” Brown. Brown agreed that he “shall not file any civil or administrative action seeking redress for any actions alleged against the Borough, its officers, members, employees, agents and assign.”

In sum, Brown alleged that Borough Council members violated his rights under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (i.e., Whistleblower Act), the Borough paid Brown a full year’s salary and Borough taxpayers are not allowed to know the nature or factual basis of Brown’s claims.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]