More Corruption Alleged at NY Port Authority
NEWARK (CN) - Former Port Authority director David Wildstein, who resigned in the George Washington Bridge scandal, has been sued by a former top officer in the Port Authority police, who claims he was hired to clean up corruption, but was ordered to do nothing as Wildstein and others fixed tickets, approved illegal spending, falsified reports and broke other laws.
Gerard "Jerry" Speziale sued The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Wildstein and Michael Fedorko, in Federal Court.
Fedorko is the superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department.
Wildstein claims that in 2010, while he was the elected sheriff of Passaic County, Wildstein contacted him and offered him the job of deputy superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department.
"Specifically, Wildstein indicated that Speziale was being brought on to rout out corruption and to reduce excessive and reckless spending within the Port Authority." The lawsuit states.
"Speziale was to be responsible for overseeing the Port Authority Police Department, which consists of approximately 1,700 officers. Specifically, Speziale was to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Police Department."
Speziale at the time was running for re-election as sheriff. He claims that "Wildstein indicated that it was anticipated that Speziale would be the successor for the position of superintendent of the police department, which was then held by defendant Michael Fedorko."
Based on those representations, Speziale says, he took the job at the Port Authority.
However, according to the lawsuit: "During the first week of his employment at the Port Authority, Superintendent Michael Fedorko ('Fedorko') had Speziale in his office and warned Speziale that he was making a substantial amount of money in his newly appointed position, that he should not interfere with any operations of the Port Authority, and intimated that Speziale should essentially do nothing.
"Notwithstanding the aforesaid warning of Superintendent Fedorko, Speziale immediately began engaging in his duties, as described to him by Director Wildstein."
Soon enough, Speziale says, he became aware that the Port Authority Police Department was a stew of corruption. He claims, among other things:
that Fedorko had Port Authority workers prepare a false affidavit to get one of his own vehicle tickets dismissed;
that Fedorko alleged girlfriend had "numerous unpaid parking tickets," which Fedorko paid off with his credit card when he learned that the media was investigation them;
that Fedorko had Port Authority officers accompany the girlfriend to court to get another ticket dismissed in Brooklyn;
numerous examples of using Port Authority vehicles, and a driver, for nonbusiness trips to Atlantic City and elsewhere;
"extensive abuses of overtime including, without limitation, officers seeking overtime for municipal court appearances for which they never showed up";
"taking extended lunches and thereafter using overtime to complete tasks, which could have been completed during normal working hours";
"falsifying accident reports to appear that the accidents happened while on duty or within the jurisdiction of the Port Authority or other instances in which they were not on duty";
officers using fake law enforcement credentials.
The complaint continues: "Upon learning of the foregoing, Speziale reported the aforesaid illegal conduct to his superiors either directly or indirectly, including without limitation, Superintendent Fedorko, Director David Wildstein, William Baroni, Joseph Dunne, Tom Belifore, Claudia Dickey and others.
"In November 2011, Speziale met with Executive Director Patrick Foye to review the foregoing. Foye advised Claudia Dickey that he was unable to assist Speziale because of 'New Jersey Politics.'"
Speziale claims the Port Authority then retaliated for his efforts to do what he had been hired to do - clean up corruption - by:
taking away his Port Authority car, though lower-ranking officers had them;
excluding him from public events;
"Instituting an inquiry against Speziale for using his vehicle in responding to fires in Wayne, New Jersey notwithstanding that the New Jersey Volunteer Firefighter Act expressly requires employers to allow employees to respond to such emergencies";
"Refusing to allow Speziale to obtain security credentials so that he would have clearance for Port Authority facilities, in the event of an emergency. Accordingly, in the event there was an emergency, Speziale would have to be escorted through a facility by a lower-ranking officer and, if none were available, Speziale would be unable to respond to an emergency";
"Being assigned to perform trivial and meaningless tasks in order to detract him from continuing his investigations into criminal conduct and abuses by Port Authority personnel";
"Daily harassment, intimidation and demeaning conduct through the date of his resignation";
"Denying him FMLA benefits for his wife who was terminally ill with cancer and specifically refusing to allow him to accompany her for treatment in Texas";
"Denying him 'injury on duty' benefits for an automobile accident while in transit to Port Authority, while allowing such benefits for numerous other individuals injured under similar circumstances or while using their vehicles on weekends";
"Cutting off medical benefits for his terminally ill wife";
"Hacking into his Facebook account";
and having him "watched by Special Services."
All of this was meant to, and did, intimidate, harass, demean and inflict personal and emotional distress upon him, constructively firing him, Speziale says in the complaint.
"Accordingly, Speziale was unable to bear the continual harassment and intimidation and had no alternative but to resign and accept a substantially lower paying job in Alabama, from a community that was in bankruptcy."
Speziale demands lost wages, costs of litigation, and damages for wrongful firing, outrage, retaliation, whistleblower violations, violations of public policy, harm to reputation, hostile work environment, and FMLA violations.
He is represented by Gabriel Halpern, with PinilisHalpern, of Morristown, N.J.