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.
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


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »