Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

McEady v. Camden County Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 7, 2019

TYRONE MCEADY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

          JAMES A. BELL IVCHRISTOPHER ALAN MACEY, JR. BELL & BELL, LLP On behalf of Plaintiffs

          CHRISTINE P. O'HEARN KELLY E. ADLER BENJAMIN S. TERIS BROWN & CONNERY, LLP On behalf of Defendant

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Tyrone McEady (“McEady”), Robert Babnew (“Babnew”), and Steven L. Fritz (“Fritz, ” and collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed suit against the Camden County Police Department (“Defendant”), alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (“the ADEA”), race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. (“Title VII”), and retaliation for Plaintiffs' opposition to discrimination under both the ADEA and Title VII. (See generally Am. Compl. [Docket Item 21].)

         Defendant subsequently moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Mot. for Summ. J. [Docket Item 58].) Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Response in Opposition [Docket Item 60].) Defendant filed a timely Reply. (Reply Brief [Docket Item 64].) For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's Motion will be granted in full.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Formation of the Camden County Police Department

         On August 25, 2011, the City of Camden, the County of Camden, and the State of New Jersey entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to provide for the creation of a Camden County Police Department, which would offer services to municipalities within Camden County. (See Memorandum of Understanding [Docket Item 58-7].) On January 26, 2012, the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the establishment of the County Police Department to function through shared services or participation agreements with municipalities in the County. (See Freeholders' Resolution [Docket Item 58-8].)

         In December 2012, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission approved the City of Camden's plan to lay off all uniformed Camden City Police Officers by April 30, 2013. (See Civil Service Commission Letter [Docket Item 58-9].) The City Council passed a resolution on January 4, 2013, also approving the City's layoff plan. (See City Council Resolution [Docket Item 58-10].) On April 30, 2013, all Camden City Police Officers were officially laid off and the Camden City Police Department was dissolved. Carmichael v. Thomson, No. 14-3323, 2018 WL 4629516, at *7 (D.N.J. Sept. 27, 2018). Defendant Camden County Police Department assumed all police functions in the City of Camden the following day, on May 1, 2013. (See Police Services Agreement [Docket Item 58-11].)

         To prepare for the transition, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission established a Pilot Program to facilitate “expeditious appointment of qualified law enforcement officers to staff the [Department].” (October 3, 2012 Civil Service Commission Order [Docket Item 58-12], at 1.) Under the Pilot Program, all Civil Service rules concerning hiring and promotion were suspended between November 1, 2012, and October 31, 2013. (Id. at 9-17.) The Program was designed “to employ up to 420 new police officers and a sufficient number of related civilian personnel, ” and was “an extreme measure to immediately address the staffing needs of the new [Department].” (Id. at 2.) Moreover, while the Pilot Program was designed to recruit from multiple applicant pools, including civilians and current law enforcement, the Commission noted that “[t]here will be no specific number of [police officers] drawn from any single source.” (Id.)

         In the months before the County Police Department began operating, the City police officers' union, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #1 (“the FOP”), negotiated with the County to agree on a hiring and transition plan. (See January 15, 2013 Cappelli Letter [Docket Item 58-13].) On January 15, 2013, Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli sent a letter to all members of the FOP, notifying them of the County Department's implementation status and the ongoing negotiations. (See id.) The County originally offered to guarantee consideration for all union members; the offer would remain on the table until January 31, 2013, and after that date, if no deal was reached, the County would proceed with the hiring of no more than 49% of Camden City Police Officers. (Def. Answers to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-17], ¶ 4.)

         Cappelli sent an additional update on January 29, 2013, advising that the County would not extend the deadline for the proposed agreement with the FOP past January 31st, and emphasizing the proposed retirement incentives available for City officers who submitted applications prior to January 31, 2013. (See January 29, 2013 Cappelli Letter [Docket Item 58-14].) The FOP and the County subsequently failed to reach an agreement to hire union members after the union rejected the deal. (Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], 46:13-17.)

         B. Pilot Program

         Defendant then established its hiring process pursuant to the Civil Service Commission's Pilot Program provisions. (Cirii Dep. [Docket Item 60-7], at 7:10-14.) Under the Pilot Program, Defendant planned to hire from three applicant pools: Camden City Police Officers, law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions who were Police Training Commission (“PTC”) certified, and civilian applicants. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 60:1-9; Def.'s Answer to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-17], ¶ 4.) Defendant's goal was to create a “diverse department that was reflective of the city.” (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 62:19-63:6.)

         Because of their familiarity with the community and the fact that they could be deployed “right out on the street” upon hire, Camden City officers were considered “a completely different pool than any other applicant.” (Id. at 48:9-14, 57:23-58:4.) Camden City Police Officers were therefore afforded a “more streamlined process” than other applicants for positions with Defendant and were given “first priority” in hiring. (Id. at 38:14-16; Def.'s Answer to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-17], ¶ 4.) To that end, unlike other applicants, City officers were not required to undergo a psychological assessment or physical exam. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 48:19-24.)

         Instead, City officers were required to first submit a written application, which Ed Fanelle, Camden County Public Safety Director, would log. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 50:11-14; see also Application Log [Docket Item 58-22].) Internal Affairs would then review the application and confirm that there were no pending disciplinary actions or disqualifying investigations on the applicant's record. (Lynch Dep. [Docket Item 58-21], at 15:14-20.) If Internal Affairs approved the application for next steps, Michael Lynch (“Lynch”), Deputy Police Chief, would review the applications and then recommend applicants to move forward to an interview panel. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 36:1-3; 50:11-13.) If the interview panel approved of an applicant, the final hiring decision would then go to the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders. (Id. at 51:1-3.) This process was otherwise the same for all applicants under the Pilot Program, regardless of their prior employment or law enforcement experience. (Id. at 48:25-49:6.)

         As an incentive for City police officers to apply for employment with Defendant Camden County Police Department as soon as possible, those who applied prior to January 31, 2013, would be able to carry over their time of service, fringe benefits, and pension credit from the City to the County. (Lynch Dep. [Docket Item 58-21], at 18:13-23.) An April 1, 2013 deadline was “imposed on all New Jersey Law Enforcement Officers who wished to apply and have up to seven years of service considered by the County if hired.” (County Counsel Letter [Docket Item 58-33], at 2.) The January 31, 2013 date “was solely to provide an additional benefit to Camden City Police Officers; it in no way impacted the ability for any officer to submit an application.” (Id.)

         C. Plaintiffs' Backgrounds

         Plaintiff McEady was employed by the Camden City Police Department from approximately 1994 through April 2013. (McEady's Answer to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-4], ¶ 2.) McEady, an African American male, was 49 years old at the time he applied for employment as a police officer with Defendant. (Id. ¶ 1; Am. Compl. [Docket Item 21], ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff Babnew was employed with the Camden City Police Department from approximately 1994 through April 2013. (Babnew's Answer to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-5], ¶ 2.) Babnew, a Caucasian male, was 42 years old at the time he applied for employment with Defendant. (Id. ¶ 1; Lynch Dep. [Docket Item 58-21], at 40:7-8.)

         Plaintiff Fritz was employed with the Camden City Police Department from approximately January 27, 2003, through April 2013. (Pl. Fritz's Answer to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-6], ¶ 2.) Fritz, a Caucasian male, was 45 years old at the time he applied for employment with Defendant. (Id. ¶ 1; Lynch Dep. [Docket Item 58-21], at 40:9.)

         Plaintiffs were all members of the FOP, which “generally opposed the formation of the Camden County Police Department.” (Fritz Dep. [Docket Item 60-5], at 30:5-7.) During the months preceding the formation of the Camden County Police Department, Plaintiffs attended union meetings where the members discussed the transition from City to County and the upcoming disbandment of the Camden City Police Department. (McEady Dep. [Docket Item 60-11], at 23:17-24:22.) Attendees at the union meetings also discussed “getting laid off, getting a job [with Defendant], who was going to be hired, what's the salary.” (Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], at 36:10-14.)

         Plaintiff McEady stated that he “attended most of the union meetings where the formation of the [Camden County Police Department] was discussed, ” but could not remember if he spoke at any of those meetings. (McEady Dep. [Docket Item 60-11], at 25:20-26:1.) Plaintiff Babnew was “outspoken at the union meetings” during the months preceding the formation of the County department. (Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], at 115:2-116:1.) Plaintiff Fritz also attended union meetings, but did not speak there. (Fritz Dep. [Docket Item 60-5], at 27:21-29:22.)

         In April 2012, some 18 months before his application to the new department was rejected, Plaintiff Babnew sent an email to John Williamson, president of the FOP, complaining about the treatment of older officers by Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson (“Chief Thomson”) and others within the Camden County Police Department. (Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], at 109:14-16, 113:3-5.) Plaintiff Babnew asked Williamson to submit the complaint to the County business administrator, and “would imagine [Chief Thomson] is aware of it.” (Id. at 112:8-11.) However, Plaintiff Babnew “[did not] have personal knowledge” of whether “the chief [knew] that it was [Plaintiff Babnew] that made this E-mail.” (Id. at 112:12-23.) Plaintiff Babnew also discussed his concerns about discrimination at the union meetings, but did not know whether the Chief or other County personnel were aware of his comments. (Id. at 115:5-16.)

         Plaintiff Babnew also testified that he believed Chief Thomson had a “discriminatory animus” against older police officers based on an October 2013 interview given to the Trentonian newspaper.[1] Plaintiff Babnew recalls Chief Thomson telling the newspaper: “out with the old, in with the new culture, ” and allegedly called the Camden City Police Department “old and tired.” (Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], at 81:22-82:13.)

         D. Defendant's Hiring Decisions

         Plaintiff Babnew submitted his application to Defendant Camden County Police Department on March 18, 2013. (Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], at 53:20-23.) Plaintiff McEady submitted his application on March 19, 2013. (McEady's Answer to Interrog. [Docket Item 58-4], ¶ 9.) Plaintiff Fritz submitted his application on March 29, 2013. (Fritz Dep. [Docket Item 60-5], at 46:14-16.)

         Based on discussions with supervisors and from the County Freeholders, Plaintiff McEady understood that “[w]e had until April 1st to sign up if we didn't sign up January 31st.” (McEady Dep. [Docket Item 60-11], at 31:16-32:2.) While he did not believe that there was a “guarantee” to be hired, (Pl. Fritz Dep. [Docket Item 60-5], at 33:18-20), Plaintiff Fritz also believed that he could still apply by April 1st based on a memo, which according to him, was “most likely [from] Lou Cappelli.” (Id. at 33:11-17.)

         Plaintiff Babnew, meanwhile, believed that consideration for employment would be guaranteed if he submitted his application before April 1, 2013, based on conversations he had with Ed Fanelle, then Civilian Police Director for the Camden County Police Department. (Pl. Babnew Dep. [Docket Item 60-8], at 56:13-18.) On March 18, 2013, the day Plaintiff Babnew submitted his application for employment as a police officer, he spoke with Defendant's employee Lieutenant Joe Saponare, who assured him that he would be hired if he submitted his application that day. (Id. at 53:5-54:20.) After submitting his application, and prior to his rejection in November, Plaintiff Babnew spoke on the phone with Lieutenant Saponare, who informed him that his application was being processed and that he would be hired. (Id. at 76:3-22.)

         As it turns out, Plaintiffs were misinformed. On or around March 14, 2013, Ed Fanelle directed Frank Cirii, Camden County Director of Human Resources, to send conditional offers of employment to the selected Camden City Police Officers who had already applied. (Cirii Dep. [Docket Item 60-7], at 21:13-22; see generally Offer Letters [Docket Item 58-23].) However, Cirii could not recall any time at which he was instructed not to accept any more applications from former City officers. (Id. at 24:23-25:1.)

         Marge Della Vecchia, Deputy County Administrator, stated that once this first set of conditional offer letters was sent, “I know that we moved forward in looking at the other applicants who had made application to the county police department.” (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 17:5-8.) By this time, Defendant “had already mailed all of the letters with conditional offers of employment to the former City of Camden police officers who were instructed to report on March 18, 2013.” (County Counsel Letter [Docket Item 58-33], at 3.) At this point, Defendant “turned its attention to hiring new officers for its first academy class.” (Id.) However, like Mr. Cirii, Della Vecchia was not aware of a time that Camden County Police Department stopped accepting employment applications from former Camden City Police Officers. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 17:24-18:3.)

         Defendant ultimately hired 151 former Camden City Police Officers, all of whom applied prior to March 14, 2013. (Chart of City Officers Hired [Docket Item 58-24]; Pl.'s RSMF [Docket Item 60-4], ¶ 63.) Of these accepted applicants, four applied after January 31, 2013, but before March 14, 2013, and all four were over 40 years old at the time they applied. (Def.'s SMF [Docket Item 58-2], ¶¶ 72-73.)

         Defendant Camden County Police Department did not hire any of the 23 Camden City Police Officers who applied after March 14, 2013, including the three Plaintiffs. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 48:2-8.) Of those 23 officers, 16 were 40 years of age or older and 7 were under the age of 40, while 12 were African American and 11 were Caucasian or another race. (Def.'s SMF [Docket Item 58-2], ¶¶ 85-86.) Other PTC certified applicants who applied after March 14, 2013, were hired, but none were previously employed by Camden City Police Department. (Della Vecchia Dep. [Docket Item 60-6], at 23-28.)

         In addition to the 151 former Camden City officers hired on or before March 14, 2013, Defendant hired 312 new officers from other law enforcement and civilian applications.[2] (See Chart of Officers Hired During Pilot Program [Docket Item 60-26].) Of those 312 new hires, 21 new officers were 40 years of age or older and 32 were African American. (Pl. Supp. SMF [Docket Item 60-3], ¶¶ 73-74.) Of the 152 Camden City officers hired, 111 were 40 or older and 32 were African American. (See Chart of Officers Hired During Pilot Program [Docket Item 60-26].) On November 25, 2013, Frank Cirii sent rejection letters to Plaintiffs and others. (See Rejection Letters [Docket Item 58-30].)

         PROCEDURAL ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.