Parole board director demoted after reporting that parolee was being given special treatment: Retaliation: Emotional distress: Settlement.

Connolly v. N.J. St. Parole Bd., N.J., Mercer Co. Super., No. MER-I-1852-03,
Apr. 12, 2007

Connolly, 50, was the executive director of the New Jersey parole board.  Another member of the parole board informed Connolly that the board was allegedly giving preferential treatment to a reputed high-ranking mobster.  When Connolly questioned the parole board chairman, the chairman allegedly told him that the preferential treatment was requested by the governor’s chief of operations. The chairman refused to end the special treatment, and Connolly contacted the state police.

State and federal investigators began looking into the matter, and the governor was confronted by reporters. He denied involvement and blamed the incident on Connolly. A short time later, Connolly was demoted to a job at a state prison, adding two hours to his daily commute.  The job had no management responsibilities.  Connolly’s salary and benefits were not reduced.  However, he suffered emotional distress and depression as a result of the humiliation and the emotional and physical impact of the increased commute.

Connolly sued the New Jersey parole board, alleging violations of the state Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:19-1, which protects employee whistle-blowers from retaliation.  Plaintiff alleged he had consistently been given raises and promotions during his employment, and defendant demoted and transferred him only after he informed the police about the special treatment for a parolee.

Defendant contended there was an adverse employment action as evidenced by the continuation of plaintiff’s salary and benefits even after his job position changed.

The parties reached a $485,000 settlement before trial.  Plaintiff will be transferred out of the parole board to a supervisory position at a department of motor vehicles office, and his career service classifications and designations will be maintained.

Plaintiff’s expert was Daniel Greenfield, psychology, Millburn, N.J.

Plaintiff’s Counsel Kevin Barber, Morristown, Christopher E. Chang, Morristown

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