UPDATED: Galloway Police Department Faces Racial Discrimination, Retaliation Lawsuit From Current Officer
Brian Tennant has been a member of the force since 2000.
The Galloway Township Police Department is being sued by an African-American member of the force who is alleging racial discrimination back to 2003.
Officer Brian Tennant, an Egg Harbor Township resident who has been with the force since November of 2000, names Police Chief Pat Moran, Captain Alan Kane, Corporal Gerald Houck and the Township of Galloway as defendants, and also alleges “retaliatory actions.”
In addition to discrimination, Tennant alleges hostile work environment, retaliation, differential treatment, and violation of the Conscientious Employee Act.
According to Tennant, he has been the only African-American police officer on the force since 2003.
In the lawsuit, dated Jan. 31, 2013, Tennant’s attorney, Richard Stoloff, states his client is seeking “economic and emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and any other exemplary, punitive treble damages allowed by statutes” pleaded in the contents of the suit, as well attorney’s fees, cost of suit, and any other relief the court deems fit.
The suit was filed in Superior Court on Feb. 13.
“As it pertains to my actions and the actions of my administration, this lawsuit is full of half truths, misleading information, and inaccuracies,” Moran said in a statement issued Thursday night, Feb. 21. “Unfortunately, I am prohibited by law to discuss personnel related issues/details but I am prepared to defend against any and all allegations regarding our actions and any accusations levied upon the Township during my administration. I will also be pushing the Township to counter with a frivolous lawsuit action against Tennant and his Attorney and to push for the recovery of attorney’s fees for this entire matter.”
Moran is currently out on sick leave as a result of shoulder surgery, according to the township.
“This litigation is garbage,” Township Manager Arch Liston said in the statement. “We are presently putting our defense team together and look forward to our day in court.”
The statements were issued by the township with a copy of the lawsuit Thursday evening.
“I have faith in Chief Moran and the police department’s operating procedures,” Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said via phone interview. “With the professionalism they show every day, it’s hard to believe they would leave the township open to exposure like that.”
"It was extremely disturbing to read the details of the suit being brought against the police department and members of their administration," McElwee said. "While I prefer not to comment until after the complete story can be told by both plantiff and defendants in a court of law, I remain a strong supporter of the Galloway Township Police Deptartment and Chief Moran. It is my hope that people in Galloway will not try this case in the various media outlets with uninformed annonomous comments that degrade both parties in this case. Let the Court decide the outcome and please don't rush to judgement against either party."
Councilman Brian Tyrrell had no comment. Other members of council didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday night.
Stoloff had no comment Thursday night.
According to the lawsuit, members of the police force used racially divisive language in Tennant’s presence in 2003, 2010, and twice in 2011, and a racially offensive cartoon was sent to all members of the force, including Tennant, in 2007.
As a result of these incidents, Ryan Cantz, a part-time dispatcher, was suspended for six months and underwent sensitivity training.
However, department-wide sensitivity training has never been implemented. In one instance, Patrolman Mike Goldberg went unpunished and has since been promoted to Corporal, and then Detective, according to the lawsuit.
Tennant states that after he filed his initial tort claim notice in October, 2011, he received a letter from the department stating it was investigating his use of a sexually-offensive term within earshot of other officers. According to Tennant, no specifics were given, and there were no specifics concerning which officers were involved, but the investigation discovered the allegations were “sustained” and the investigation was closed.
Tennant was advised a written reprimand would permanently be placed in his file. When Tennant protested, he claims Moran told him an “enhanced performance notice” would be placed in his file for 18 months, followed by a performance notice on his file for three years. He also said there was no appeals process for a written reprimand.
Tennant was injured while in the line of duty in 2012, and missed several months of work. He was placed on workers’ compensation, but the department then told him he mistakenly received over $4,000 in workers’ compensation. He was then instructed to return all money received during this time. An internal investigation was conducted, and the allegations weren’t sustained, according to Tennant.
Later that year, he was the subject of an investigation that alleged he failed to properly log property checks during a night shift. According to Tennant, the allegations were sustained without a hearing, and he received a reprimand.
In June of last year, Tennant was removed from the Atlantic County SWAT team for due to “numerous departmental cuts.” Tennant claims he was the only African-American member of the SWAT team from the Galloway Police Department, was on the team for eight years, and had a longer tenure than other members of the team who were retained.
Lt. Chris Doyle was named a party to three of the incidents, including the removal of Tennant from the SWAT team.
Due to the nature of the language used in the lawsuit, Galloway Patch will not be attaching a copy of the suit to the story, as normally would be the case.