Bonanni filed a lawsuit against the township for compensatory damages, including payment due, attorney’s fees and judgment interest and other relief deemed just and proper, relating to the council’s decision to withhold the $51,765.24 he was due.
The initial decision not to pay him was made on Feb. 13. The suit was submitted on Sept. 4, but not filed until Sept. 26.
On Sept. 10, council voted to approve the payout following an investigation. That vote was 5-1, with only Councilman Jim McElwee voting against.
Bonanni also alleges violations of the Faulkner Act by Mayor Don Purdy and an unnamed John Doe in 2010 and 2011. At the time, Purdy was the Deputy Mayor.
Bonanni’s attorney Benjamin Brenner said these allegations are important because Bonanni believes they are the true reason council voted not to pay Bonanni the money he was owed.
He added Bonanni received a check from the township, but returned it, a fact Galloway Solicitor Michael Fitzgerald confirmed.
In the lawsuit, Bonanni claims that when he was the Director of Public Works in the township in 2010, Purdy requested he award township vehicle repair bids to his towing company by changing the process through which they are awarded, a request Bonanni found to be illegal.
Purdy and the John Doe then requested Bonanni release certain money that had been set aside in an escrow for a construction project on Route 30 despite the fact that the lines had not been installed properly and were not working, Bonanni claims.
They also allegedly requested that Bonanni terminate four township employees and reduce a full-time employee to part-time without cause.
Bonanni refused both requests, and also told Purdy not to communicate directly with subordinate township employees about matters that should have been handled by their supervisors in violation of the Faulkner Act, Bonanni claims.
Bonanni claims this factored into Purdy and John Doe’s decision to withhold his payout.
Bonanni says that by withholding money owed, council cast him in a bad light and interfered with his ability to a fair legal process. He accuses council of slander and defamation, and interfering with his right to earn wages.
Earlier this year, Galloway Township News published a series
of articles accusing Bonanni of engaging in illegal activities on township
Bonanni has never been held legally accountable for his alleged wrongdoing, a fact emphasized by Brenner on Thursday.
“He has not been accused of anything and that’s the basis of our lawsuit,” Brenner said. “He didn’t do anything.”
This is why he and Bonanni believe his alleged conflict with Purdy was behind the council's decision to with hold his payout.
He said council approved the amount originally owed to Bonanni, which is no longer enough due to the money Bonanni has spent on attorney’s fees since the denial.
“They had to give it to him,” Brenner said. “He earned it over 33 years.”
Attempts to reach Purdy and other members of council for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Bonanni worked for the township from 1979-2012. He was the Director of Public Works for most of his tenure. He spent his last years as Township Manager.