April 8, 2007
Morristown, NJ – During trial before Superior Court Judge Bill Mathesius in Mercer County, the New Jersey State Parole Board and the State of New Jersey agreed to settle a whistle-blowing lawsuit brought by Kenneth Connolly, the Parole Board’s former Executive Director, regarding the improper parole of a reputed organized crime Capo. As part of his Conscientious Employee Protection Act claim, Connolly will receive a payment of $485,000, a transfer out of the Parole Board to a supervisory position at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Trenton and maintenance of his career service classifications and designations.
Mr. Connolly joined the Parole Board in 1995 and worked his way through the ranks based on his performance. He was instrumental in resolving a 5000+ parole hearing backlog that had plagued the board for many years, and helped bring the agency into compliance with a class action lawsuit settlement agreement three years ahead of schedule. Mr. Connolly’s numerous performance evaluations and merit raises objectively proved his superior performance during his Parole Board tenure.
In May of 2002, Connolly learned from a Parole Board member that Angelo Prisco, a reputed Capo in the Genovese crime family, was receiving preferential treatment in connection with his parole. When Connolly confronted Parole Board Chairman Dr. Mario Paparozzi with this illegal conduct, Paparozzi responded that James Davy, Governor McGreevey’s Chief of Operations, had requested the special treatment for Prisco. When Paparozzi refused to take corrective action, Connolly contacted the New Jersey State Police to report the situation.
As a result of Connolly’s whistle-blowing, by the fall of 2002, there were state and federal investigations into the improprieties surrounding the Prisco parole. On March 7, 2003, Governor McGreevey was confronted at a press conference regarding the incident, where he denied James Davy’s involvement and blamed the Prisco matter on Connolly.
Shortly thereafter, Connolly was demoted to a Hearing Officer I and transferred from Trenton to Northern State prison in Newark, which increased his daily commute from South Jersey by over two hours. One week later, he was stripped of all of his management responsibilities and demoted to a Hearing Officer II. Despite the demotions, Connolly continued to make the same salary and benefits as he had as Parole Board Executive Director. Indeed, the fact that there was no adverse employment action became the Parole Board’s primary defense throughout the trial.
Though he suffered no economic damage, Connolly sought emotional and loss of enjoyment of life damages as a result of humiliation from the demotion and the daily emotional and physical impact caused by the longer commute. Dr. Daniel Greenfield, M.P.H., M.S. served as Connolly’s compensatory damage expert and opined that these matters were the significant factor in causing Connolly’s depression.
”Based on our overwhelming success during the pretrial evidence rulings, which included the admissibility of written and videotaped statements to the press by Governor McGreevey regarding the parole as well as the admissibility of the videotaped deposition of Dr. Mario Paparozzi, the former Chairman of the Parole Board, coupled with the strong case of retaliation, we were able to obtain this excellent result for Mr. Connolly,“ said Connolly’s attorney Kevin E. Barber of Niedweske Barber.
Kenneth Connolly was represented by Kevin Barber and Christopher E. Chang of Morristown’s Niedweske Barber, P.C. law firm. The New Jersey State Parole Board was represented by Richard F.X. Regan of DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick, Cole & Wisler, LLC.