Outgoing Township Clerk Lisa Tilton Files Tort Claim Against Galloway
All members of council are named with the exception of Mayor Keith Hartman.
Outgoing Clerk Lisa Tilton intends to sue Galloway Township, based on various counts of invasion of privacy, slander, libel and violation of a separation agreement she reached with the township on July 18, among other claims, according to a tort notice obtained by Galloway Patch on Friday, Sept. 9.
Tilton will seek $3 million in damages, for past and future lost wages, emotional distress, mental anguish, damaged personal and business reputation, as well as attorney’s fees and costs, according to the notice.
The claim also alleges violations of procedural due process and Rice Notice rights involving discussions about the position of the township clerk without notifying Tilton, and various violations of the state's Open Public Records Act.
The claim accuses the township of negligent and/or intentional violation of OPRA in releasing Tilton’s personnel records on Aug. 9 and 11.
False accusations against Tilton of threatening an appointee, malicious use of process and malicious abuse of process, and other charges are also addressed.
Tilton’s attorney, David Castellani, could not be reached for comment on Friday, Sept. 9. Township Solicitor Michael Blee did not return a call seeking comment on Friday, Sept. 9.
Tilton was suspended from her position as township clerk on June 10, and reached settlement with the township on July 18 at the time of a scheduled special hearing to discuss her position. Tilton resigned as clerk, effective Oct. 3.
At the time, council agreed to indemnify Tilton in the event of any claims made in connection with her duties as registrar from June 13 to July 19, 2011.
The sides also agreed to mutual general releases, which would release the township, township council, Bonanni, township employees, counsel of the township and Tilton from any and all claims up to and including July 18.
Tilton also resigned as registrar of vital statistics, as well as from the planning board, a resignation that she has since rescinded.
Kimberly Hodsdon, the current human resources director for the City of Wildwood, has been named the new township clerk, effective Oct. 4, at the same $64,429 salary Tilton earned in that position.
Earlier this summer, Tilton filed a separate tort claim against the Atlantic County Board of Elections, Atlantic County, the Galloway Township Republican League, and Galloway Township Republican League Municipal Leader Terry Lucarelli.
Those named in Tilton’s claim against the township include:
- Deputy Township Clerk Carol Hackney;
- Karen Bacon, who performs the duty of the clerk on a part-time basis;
- Township Executive Secretary Diane Grams;
- Township Manager Steve Bonanni;
- Deputy Mayor Don Purdy;
- Councilman Tony Coppola;
- Councilman Tom Bassford;
- Councilman Dennis Kleiner;
- Councilman Jim Gorman; and
- Councilwoman Whitney Ullman.
Deputy mayor 'not worried' about claims
Mayor Keith Hartman was the only member of council not included in the claim. Hartman recused himself from the July 18 hearing, at the request of Blee, Hartman said on Friday.
Hartman would not elaborate as to why he recused himself, only stating that he was asked to do so by Blee, and that he disagreed with the need for him to do so at the time.
“I could’ve rendered an impartial decision,” Hartman said. “I made several attempts to settle things amicably (between the township and the clerk). … I made attempts to reach an agreement without anyone being sued or hurt, but I’m just one person and I can’t do everything. I don’t control the decisions.
“I’m the only one who hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Tilton said Hartman "didn’t do anything improper that would warrant him being included with the members of the entity in which the claim was filed." She referred all other questions to her attorney.
Purdy said the exclusion of Hartman in the claim is curious.
“Isn’t it unusual that everyone on council is listed in the claim except the mayor?” Purdy said. “ … This shows a pattern of everybody getting sued. The list of people not (being sued) is shorter than the list of people that are.”
Purdy stated that while he was not “blown away” by the fact that Tilton was filing a suit, he was surprised. He added that he is “not worried about it.”
“It’s not on the top of my list,” Purdy said. “Of course we’re going to have to meet with our legal counsel to discuss it. It is what it is, and I’m going to move on in life.”
Neither Hartman nor Purdy were willing to discuss the specifics of the case, due to pending litigation.
Other members of council and Bonanni did not respond to messages seeking comment, or directed all comments to Blee.