NEWARK, N.J. (CN) – A former city attorney for Newark, New Jersey, claims in a federal complaint that he faced threats from Mayor Ras Baraka’s brother for having “snitched” on a bad development deal.
Willie Parker brought the June 23 action in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, taking aim at the city of Newark, its mayor and the mayor’s brother, Amiri Baraka Jr., who acts as chief of staff.
Two other local officials are named as defendants to the complaint, which Parker says reveals “an alarming picture of a mayor and governmental entity run riot with retaliatory animus.”
Parker, who served as the city’s chief municipal prosecutor, ties his ouster to a multimillion-dollar development deal that Newark was negotiating in August 2016.
“Mr. Parker reviewed the contract and reasonably and accurately concluded that a material, yet unnecessary and detrimental, provision in the contract had been added following approval,” the complaint states. “The provision would result in the city losing millions of dollars while simultaneously benefiting private commercial interests.
“As the city’s corporation counsel, Mr. Parker refused to sign or approve the contract, believing doing so would violate public policy and applicable law, and reasonably believed that it would benefit private interests to the detriment of the city.”
The complaint says chief of staff Baraka “commanded” Parker at an Aug. 25 meeting to execute the contract, but that Parker called Mayor Baraka immediately to express his reservations.
While driving home shortly after his meeting with the mayor that afternoon, Parker says he received an angry call from the mayor’s brother.
An confrontation between the men erupted outside Parker’s home, according to the complaint, which says Parker refused the chief of staff’s pressure to recant what he told the mayor.
Parker says he faced intimidation over the next few weeks, losing certain responsibilities and facing surveillance by the mayor, culminating in Parker suffering a heart attack on Oct. 14.
There was a dispute about Parker’s leave time, according to the complaint, and Parker received orders on Dec. 20 to resign.
Parker says he suffered additional emergency cardiac issues the next month, due in large part to his stress at work.
Alleging discrimination, retaliation and violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, Parker seeks punitive damages. He is represented by Gregg Salka in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Elected as Newark mayor in May 2014, Ras Barka’s first term presided over a downtown building boom and a historic drop crime following increased police spending.
Both the mayor and his brother are sons of former New Jersey poet laureate and 1960s Black Arts Movement founder Amiri Baraka.
Representatives from the city of Newark did not immediately respond to requests for comment.