Utility Men Say Whistle-Blowing Cost Them

     (CN) – A public utility commissioner harassed two employees and fired one of them after they reported his alleged corruption to the FBI, the employees claim in court.
     Scott Bundy and Domenick Brando sued the Brick Township Municipal Utility Authority and Commissioner Patrick Bottazzi in Ocean County Superior Court.
     New Jersey’s BMUA provides potable water, sewage collection and water-quality testing, among other services.
     Bottazzi, who served as chairman, is now secretary of the authority’s board of commissioners, according to the BMUA website.
     Bundy and Brando began working for the BMUA in 2007, according to the complaint.
     Bundy, who previously worked for the BMUA from 1988 to 1998, claims the authority wrongfully fired him in 2012 after he reported Bottazzi’s alleged misconduct to auditors and the FBI.
     “In or about August 2010, plaintiffs learned that defendant Bottazzi was suffering financial difficulties,” the complaint states.
     “Plaintiffs further learned that defendant Bottazzi was then attempting to obtain a loan from Crown Bank and in exchange for the loan had agreed to transition the BMUA’s bank accounts to Crown Bank.”
     Crown Bank is not a party to the action.
     Bundy and Brando said they “reasonably believed” Bottazzi’s actions were “fraudulent, illegal, and against public policy which discourages the corruption of public officials.”
     Bundy claims that Bottazzi started harassing him after he reported his suspicions to BMUA auditor Frank Holman.
     “On or about Aug. 30, 2010, defendant Bottazzi referred to plaintiff Bundy as a ‘rat’ and stated, ‘I hate your guts,'” the complaint states.
     “Upon information and belief, Mr. Holman confronted defendant Bottazzi regarding his arrangement with Crown Bank, and defendant Bottazzi screamed at Mr. Holman and threatened his appointment as an auditor for the following year.
     “Subsequently, by Resolution 69-10, BMUA did, in fact, appoint Crown Bank as a depositor for the organization.
     “Following the adoption of Resolution 69-10, defendant Bottazzi publically stated, ‘I got my loan.'”
     Bottazzi allegedly received a personal loan in exchange for illegally shifting the authority’s deposit funds to Crown Bank.
     Bundy and Brando also attracted Bottazzi’s wrath when they reported the alleged illegal activity to the FBI, according to the complaint.
     “Thereafter, defendant Bottazzi regularly harassed plaintiff Brando by referring to him as a ‘rat’ and ‘stool pigeon,'” the plaintiffs claim.
     “Defendant Bottazzi specifically advised plaintiff Brando, ‘I’m gonna get you.’
     “Plaintiff Brando was advised by other co-workers that defendant Bottazzi specifically stated that he was seeking to harm plaintiff Brando.
     “In or about July of 2011, Mr. Holman released an audit report which specifically noted that around the same time the BMUA’s funds were transferred from TD Bank to Crown Bank, a commissioner (defendant Bottazzi) received a loan from Crown Bank.” (Parentheses in complaint).
     Bundy allegedly met with Holman and the BMUA’s attorney and told them Bottazzi had to be reported.
     “In or about July of 2011, defendant Bottazzi stated to plaintiff Bundy, ‘You’re nothing but a fucking rat. You went to the FBI about some made-up bank scandal,'” the complaint states.
     “In or about January 2012, plaintiff Bundy learned that defendant Bottazzi had struck a deal with fellow commissioner Joseph Veni whereby Mr. Veni would remain as chairman, despite the fact that Mr. Bottazzi was expected to assume that role, and in exchange, plaintiff would be terminated.
     “Plaintiff Bundy was advised by the BMUA’s water quality director, ‘Pat just traded the chairmanship for your head on a silver platter.'”
     Bundy says Bottazzi brought false charges against him, seeking to have him fired.
     He claims the BMUA demoted him, and subjected him to an investigation based on false charges that he had destroyed documents.
     He says he received a 60-day notice of termination in retaliation for his complaints.
     Brando, who was not fired, claims the defendants eliminated his yearly stipend without proper notice.
     The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for retaliation, back pay and reinstatement.
     They are represented by Kevin Costello with Costello & Mains, of Mount Laurel.

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