UPDATED: Bonanni Attorney: Act of Denying Former Manager Implies He Did Something Wrong
Steve Bonanni filed a tort claim notice against the township on Monday.
The attorney for Steve Bonanni on Wednesday stated that by denying the former township manager accrued sick/vacation time, the township was implying he was guilty of a crime that remains under investigation.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Don Purdy reiterated that council never said Bonanni was guilty.
As first reported by Galloway Township News, Bonanni has filed a tort claim notice against the township, council and individuals claiming the township’s decision to withhold accrued vacation and sick time interferes with his economic advantage and amounts to slander.
The tort claim notice was filed Monday afternoon, March 4. It comes following council’s decision last month to deny Bonanni accrued vacation/sick time following his retirement from the township in 2012.
Bonanni was to be paid $51,765.24. The claimed amount was listed as “to be determined.” Bonnani’s attorney, Benjamin Brenner of The Carroll Law Firm, stated the “damage estimate would be provided upon calculation.”
In the tort claim, Brenner refers to council "publishing statements" as it relates to the denial of the accrued sick/vacation time. On Wednesday morning, Brenner clarified these "publising statements" referred to the council's action, and ensuing articles that reference council "empahtically" repeating no as it relates to the payout.
"By denying him, that in and of itself implies he did something wrong," Brenner said. "And them emphatically stating, 'no' implies that he did something wrong."
"Council never said he was guilty," Purdy said.
He added that the township is likely to open an investigation into the allegations, but didn't have a timeframe as to when that may happen.
Township Manager Arch Liston wasn't immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Bonanni has been the subject of allegations that he was participating in illegal activities when he was supposed to be working for the township.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office has never confirmed the existence of an investigation into that matter, and he has never been convicted of the crimes of which he's accused.
At the time, township council stated its decision was “in the best interest of the taxpayers.” At the time, Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola stated the matter could be revisited in the future, and Councilman Jim Gorman stated “if someone else wants to address it in the future, they can.”
The township and council are named in the notice, as well as each councilperson individually and “John Does 1-50.”
Bonanni was named Township Manager in 2011 after serving as the Director of Public Works. He was employed with the township for over 30 years.
Including Tilton, Bonanni is the second former employee in the last two years that has brought legal action against the township, whether it be a tort claim notice or a lawsuit. The township also recently settled a suit with current employee Jody Smith and is being sued by current police officer Brian Tennant, who also listed the police department as a party in his suit.
A copy of Bonanni's tort claim notice is attached to this story as a PDF.