On August 31, 2023, the City of East Orange (Essex County, NJ) quietly paid $42,500 to an Uber driver who said he was arrested in retaliation for questioning a cop about a double-parking ticket.

In his lawsuit, Uber driver Duane Dooley said that he was picking up passengers on October 30, 2018 when East Orange Police Lieutenant (now Captain) Raymond Garcia ticketed him for double-parking and illegally picking up passengers, which Dooley denied. Dooley claimed that when he questioned Garcia about the tickets, Garcia arrested him for obstruction, adding a charge for failing to exhibit insurance documents despite Dooley claiming that he provided them. Dooley said that after processing, he was released. Dooley pleaded not guilty to the charges, and all charges against him were eventually dismissed, according to the complaint.

According to the City’s November 20, 2023 response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request Garcia, a 21-year veteran of the East Orange Police Department, earns a base salary of $137,747.15. Additionally, regarding the same inquiry, the City reported having no records of summonses or complaints issued against Dooley related to the incident on October 30, 2018.

The case is captioned Dooley v. Garcia, et al, Docket No. ESX-L-1149-20, and Dooley was represented by Kevin T. Flood of Hillsborough. The civil lawsuit and settlement order are in a combined PDF file on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, under which the plaintiff agreed that the settlement and its terms and amounts be kept confidential. Fortunately, however, 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 Dooley’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $42,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by East Orange, Garcia or any of the City’s employees and officials. All that is known for sure is that East Orange or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Dooley $42,500 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.

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