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Judge Rules Against Toms River Cops in Lawsuit Against Township

Several officers claimed they were not promoted after superior officers lowered their test scores

A federal judge has dismissed a complaint filed by several Toms River police officers who claimed they were not promoted after superior officers lowered their test scores.

U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp dismissed the case filed against the township by police officers Paul Kaminski, Stephen J. Russell, Frank T. Palino and Richard T. Ross, alleging former police chief Michael Mastronardy, retired deputy police chief Vincent Pedalino and other superior officers lowered their scores on a promotional exam in order to promote other, more personally favored officers to the positions of sergeant and lieutenant in the department.

In the case, the officers alleged that departmental leaders exercised favoritism when promoting officers during tests given in 2006 and 2011, and that the favoritism was implemented during the subjectively graded portion of the exams, known as the "evaluation" section.

The plaintiffs sought to have the officers who were ultimately promoted to be demoted, and for themselves to gain the titles.

Kaminski, specifically, claimed that in a 2008 meeting with Mastronardy, the former chief told him that "a little birdie" told him there were problems with his exam and, that if he had not witnessed first-hand the problems with the 2006 police entrance exam and the June 2008 captains promotions, he would not have believed what Kaminski was alleging. In that conversation, Kaminski said, the chief told him an investigator would be hired to probe the 2006 exam process.

However, the suit claimed, Mayor Thomas Kelaher would not go along with the hiring of an investigator since the issue was not "on the front burner."

Eventually, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office was contacted regarding the exam process, however Kaminski could not be reached, Shipp's ruling stated, and the matter was set aside.

Shipp ruled that the plaintiffs in the case waited until 2010 to file suit, well after the two year statute of limitations had run out.

In the 2011 matter, Shipp also ruled against the plaintiffs, stating, "Even if Plaintiffs were eligible for promotion, they cannot presume that they would obtain a promotion."

"Plaintiffs have failed to put forth any evidence to show that they have a procedural or substantive due process right to a promotion or, even if they were eligible for a promotion, that they had a vested right to appointment," the judge ruled.

While a government employee has a property right to retain his or her position, he or she does not "have a right to a promotion or to a fair and transparent promotional examination process," according to the law.

Shipp also dismissed the plaintiff's first ammendment claim alleging retaliation over their complaints about the testing procedure, ruling that the case does not delve into matters of public policy or public safety, a standard for a federal judicial consideration.

"Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is not about the alleged misconduct of Defendants in regards to protecting the public’s safety," he ruled. "It is a personal dispute between Plaintiffs and Defendants regarding alleged misconduct regarding the administration of a promotional exam."

According to court documents filed this week, the plaintiffs in the case plan to appeal the ruling to the third circuit court of appeals. That case has yet to be filed.
Rem January 23, 2014 at 07:41 AM
lets take a poll. Do you think this happened. Yes or no. Local politics just plain old suck. Thank god the mayor re-instituted the dept chiefs position or Henry would have been overlooked also due to politics. A lot of skeletons out there.
Rem January 23, 2014 at 07:41 AM
Yes.
Chief Wahoo January 23, 2014 at 08:01 AM
Look at all the little public taker piggies. Fighting over a dwindling pie. Promotions. Increased Salaries. Pensions. Benefits. For all. No problems. The taxpayers will pay for it.
Heather Feimer January 23, 2014 at 08:12 AM
First I know many officers that don't care for higher more demanding positions. 2 nd there are many who may of taken the exam and despite a pass or fail EVERYONE knew they never should have any further power EVER 3rd I guarantee if you knew Mitch Little the NEW CHIEF, your opinion would change. I grew up a child of this department. Either they loved or hated my dad as he was fair. No gray line. So if you were the moron who thought you were God harassing anyone and everyone, writing tickets to his own mother if possible, yeah never should of even thought he could try. AND IM SURE ALOT OF OLDER ROVERS KNOW EXACTLY WHOM I SPEAK. so , SORRY, NOT SORRY HERE, if they were of good character, did the job with human abilities, and actually did recieve a fair shake then they would NOT be in this position. Yet, now as there is a new chief, and he's a good man, I'm sure you will notice change. And it will be good. And NO, not everyone will like it. I don't care, I know the right chief has been named, and I definitely support him. Give him a chance, trust me, MITCH LITTLE WILL DO EVERYTHING IN THE BEST INTEREST IN ALL OF TOMS RIVER.
grace January 23, 2014 at 08:57 AM
yes@ rem after all this is toms crooked river we are talking about..no offense heather to mr little..just saying
Mary January 23, 2014 at 09:15 AM
Our police department gad been crooked for years with hiring
grace January 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM
and now the chief is our sherriff FOREVER!! how o how did we the people let this mess happen???
grace January 23, 2014 at 10:35 AM
@ mary the chief of the police dept followed the same set of rules as the school super ritacco..who you know and what can you/family do for me...
Mac January 23, 2014 at 11:01 AM
@grace - "how o how did we the people let this mess happen???" - blindly pushing the button of 'column A' for any and all Gilmore Goo-Goo Dolls for a lifetime of sorry jokes and sand-flea bacon grease waste might give you a clue - this year Vicari is the chosen one to bubble up to the top of the pot
bayway mike January 23, 2014 at 12:05 PM
I guess that those police officers who were passed over didn't have those giant "Vote Column A" signs on their front lawns at election time...
patch_reader January 23, 2014 at 02:00 PM
Ha ha. The crumbling bluewall of tr.
jerseytomato January 23, 2014 at 03:45 PM
Hmmm. Things might be a little sticky at work for the officers who have sued. Who does that?
Mac January 23, 2014 at 04:36 PM
People who didn't put column A signs up during election season for one.
grace January 23, 2014 at 05:28 PM
hi @ mac how you doing? any proud news? i agree about the pushing of column A, i was one of them for a while...i now vote differently albeit republican...after i witnessed with my own eyes the mob mentality at the tr school system , then the way people were hired there and the same at the police force ive changed..i also tell people but no one cares mac and i dont get it....
grace January 23, 2014 at 05:35 PM
hey @ jersey tomato thats why the school system the police force and all of toms river is in such a mess.. the backlash..no jobs for friends and family OMG toms river / crime family want to be

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