Update: After publishing this article, I learned that on February 18, 2019, Thomasina A. Jones, who was named as a defendant in Mr. Johnson’s lawsuit, filed her own lawsuit against the Bridgeton Board of Education and Board President Angela Edwards. That lawsuit, which is captioned Thomasina Jones v. Bridgeton Board of Education, Docket No. CUM-L-110-19, settled for $375,000 on October 9, 2019. The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.
On March 14, 2023, the Bridgeton Board of Education (Cumberland County, NJ) agreed to pay $87,500 to a former Assistant Superintendent who claimed that the Superintendent created a toxic work environment and, after his retirement, caused him to be discharged from his new position at Rowan University.
In his lawsuit, Nedd J. Johnson, who served as Assistant Superintendent from 2011 until his retirement in 2016, said that he sent in his retirement letter in 2014 because Superintendent Thomasina A. Jones, who “deemed [him] to be ‘disloyal,'” had made his work environment unpleasant. He claimed that even though he rescinded his retirement letter because his concerns were addressed, “Jones continued to create an extremely hostile, toxic and unhealthy work environment for” him. Right before he retired in June 2016, Jones told Johnson that she would “personally make it more difficult for him to find work and maintain work relationships once he left,” according to the lawsuit.
In January 2017, Johnson began to work for Rowan University. When Rowan placed him in Bridgeton’s Cherry Street School to supervise five students, Johnson claimed that Jones made his work environment difficult by instructing other employees to track his whereabouts during work hours. He alleged that Jones and the Board of Education caused a February 2017 letter to be sent to Rowan asking that he be reassigned because his presence “has left many uncomfortable.” Johnson claimed that the letter caused Rowan to terminate his employment contract.
Johnson’s lawsuit stated that “in reality, it was solely Jones who was uncomfortable with [Johnson’s] assignment to Bridgeton Schools” and that she “made arrangements to have this letter sent with the purpose of interfering with [Johnson’s] employment with Rowan University.”
A June 22, 2016 article in the South Jersey Times, “Retiring Bridgeton school admin rips his boss on his way out,” by Don E. Woods, provides more information on Johnson’s complaints against Jones.
According to the school board’s response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, Johnson retired effective July 1, 2016 at an annual salary of $151,470. The same record shows that Jones’ contract with the school board expired on June 30, 2019 at which time she had an annual salary of $181,913. According to DataUniverse, Johnson and Jones received monthly pension allowances in 2021 (the most recent figures available) of $7,131.50 and $6,888.48, respectively.
The case is captioned Johnson v. Bridgeton Board of Education, Docket No. CUM-L-93-19 and Johnson’ original attorney was Michael J. Fioretti of Chance & McCann of Bridgeton until that law firm was disqualified by a July 29, 2019 court order signed by Superior Court Judge Jean Chetney. Thereafter, Johnson was represented by Frank Hoerst, III of Woodstown and Richard F. Klineburger of Haddonfield. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.
The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause under which Johnson agreed that the settlement and its terms and amounts be kept confidential. 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 Johnson’ 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 the Bridgeton school board or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Johnson $87,500 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.