Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Million Dollar Settlement Sends a Bad Signal

The terms of sexual harassment lawsuits settled with tax dollars can no longer be kept secret in New Jersey from the people who end up paying them, i.e., the taxpayers. While many times it is prudent to settle nuisance suits, within reason, to avoid the expenses associated with a lawsuit, an innocent party may deem it necessary to defend a meritless lawsuit. Judges may award attorney fees to the winning party and those costs recouped.

Yesterday, The Star Ledger reported that Middlesex County settled a lawsuit brought against it and and its Sheriff's department for almost $1 million. The County's attorney offered that the potential cost of a trial led to the settlement. See story here.

As John Paff*, Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government, is fond of stating: "This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened."

Taxpayers paid nearly $1 million and will never know whether the plaintiffs' claims against members of the Sheriff's department were true or not. Part of the terms of the settlement could also be deemed as hush money as the plaintiffs have been paid to stay silent. A million dollars is a lot of money for Middlesex County taxpayers to fork over for the sole comfort of being assured that it could have been worse. Poor taxpayers.

Mr. Paff has an excellent blog which reports settlements by NJ government entities, which can be viewed here.

*John Paff played an instrumental role in seeing that these types of settlements be rightfully made public. See here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How does anyone even know if these are "inside deals"? Plus the fact that the Sheriff is the Middlesex County Dem Chair and has a say in who is hired as attorneys for the County. This deal stinks to the core.