Former Township Clerk Files Third Tort Claim Notice Against Galloway
Newest claim filed by Lisa Tilton doesn't name a specific dollar amount, names Solicitor Michael Blee and acting Deputy Clerk Thalia C. Kay.
Former Galloway Township Clerk Lisa Tilton filed a third tort claim notice against the township late last week, this time naming the township, Solicitor Michael Blee and Acting Deputy Clerk Thalia C. Kay specifically, while not naming a dollar amount.
It was the third notice filed against the township since the sides reached an agreement for Tilton to resign last July. A tort claim notice announces a party's intent to sue, but is not an actual lawsuit.
In the notice, received by the township on April 23 and sent by Tilton’s new attorney Stephen R. Srenaski, Tilton claims Blee shared her private information with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA), which in turn “publicly disclosed her name, date of birth, checking account number, state pension identification number and consecutive portions of her social security number, all of which was eventually re-publicized to members of the media/public.”
"A notice of tort claims has been filed with the Township of Galloway which makes certain allegations regarding me as Township Solicitor," Blee said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. "A copy of it is available to the public. The tort claims notice contains statements and characterizations of my actions and purposes which are inaccurate, incorrect, misplaced and unwarranted. The allegations are not only untruthful but also may be defamatory and could potentially diminish my professional reputation.
"Therefore, those allegations may be actionable at law, and I have reserved the right to take appropriate action. Additionally, should a lawsuit be filed against me as a follow up to the tort claims notice, I have reserved the right to seek redress pursuant to frivolous lawsuit law. I have conferred with counsel and was advised to limit my comments to this statement at this time."
The dispute relates to a series of emails exchanged between Harry Scheeler, the publisher of gallowaytwpnews.com, and Thomas Neff of the NJDCA. In the emails, Neff contacts Scheeler, stating that the release of Tilton's information was an oversight on the state's part, and that it was made "while trying to diligently provide information to the public in the spirit of providing as much information as possible."
Neff went on: "In this case, we should have redacted the information, but due to the voluminous nature of the request, we missed it. Out of respect for the privacy of the individual impacted, please refrain from sharing it further."
Scheeler responded: "Unfortunately the documents that were provided were shown to other individuals and the media prior to my full understanding as to what the documents contained. You must understand as a citizen it's reasonable for me to assume the government is following the law. With that said I had no concerns the documents could contain information that should not be released. After fully reading the documents I personally feel the DCA’s involvement in the release was an honest mistake as the request contained a large amount of documents."
He further requested DCA administratively request the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office fully investigate the circumstances surrounding Galloway Township’s deliberative release of this information, a request Neff said would not be fulfilled.
In the claim, Srenaski goes on to state that Kay “disclosed to the public certain documents relating to Ms. Tilton that are confidential and exempt from disclosure.”
He went on to say in the claim: “Said actions were done negligently, intentionally, with actual malice, and were injurious to Ms. Tilton. The disclosure of this information was in violation of the requirements of the Open Public Records Act, as well as constitutes a false light invasion of privacy, defamation, slander and liable per se, intentional misrepresentation, negligence, negligent training, supervision retention, and harassment under the common law and the New Jersey Constitution, retaliation and harassment under the Law Against Discrimination, CEPA and the common law.”
Tilton is claiming violation of privacy, exposure to identity theft and associated economical and reputational injury, mental anguish, emotional distress, personal and business reputation, compensatory damages, including lost wages, both past and future, punitive and treble damages and attorneys fees.
Only the township, Blee and Kay are named in the tort claim. Kay had no comment. Srenaski didn’t reply to telphone and email requests seeking comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
Tilton has already filed two tort claims against the township, each worth $3 million. She has another claim pending against the county and the Atlantic County Board of Elections, also asking for $3 million.
In the claim received by the township on Monday, the amount claimed is labeled as “unknown at the present time.”