August 6, 2014

Officers’ Attorney: Dudeck Lawsuit Still Going Forward

In spite of media reports that the lawsuit brought by seven current and former members of Princeton Police Department against former Police Chief David J. Dudeck, the Princeton Police Department, and the town of Princeton had been “thrown out” by a state judge, Matthew A. Peluso, attorney for the officers, said Monday the case would be going forward.

“Contrary to what has been reported, the case has not been ‘thrown out’ and as a matter of law it will proceed,” said Mr. Peluso Monday. “To say that it has been dismissed is erroneous.”

Describing “conflicting orders” handed down by the judge, Mr. Peluso said that these would have to be addressed but that they in no way meant that the case had been dismissed. “Conflicting orders which contradict one another are unusual and we will have to file a motion to address these,” he said.

Asked about the nature of the contradiction, Mr. Peluso declined to comment on the substance of the matter. “I’m not going to get into that, it’s complicated,” he said.

The suit filed in Mercer County Superior Court last year on August 28 by officers Sharon Papp, Steven Riccitello, Daniel Chitren, Carol Raymond, Christopher P. Donnelly, Michael Bender, and Christopher M. Quaste, alleges that the officers, all of whom were members of the former Borough police department before consolidation, were “discriminated against and harassed” based upon “their gender, sexual orientation, and disability.”

The lawsuit alleges that from 2008 until he went on a leave of absence last spring, Mr. Dudeck engaged in a continuing pattern of discrimination, and created a hostile work environment. It cites some 40 incidents in which Mr. Dudeck allegedly used crude sexual language, made crude gestures, or asked the officers about their sex lives or sexuality.

The suit also alleges that the Princeton Police Department and the Town of Princeton “aided and abetted” Mr. Dudeck’s discriminatory conduct by negligently hiring him as Police Chief despite knowing of his behavior and by failing to discipline him.

Mr. Dudeck joined the Princeton Borough Police Department in 1983. In 2009, when Borough Chief Anthony Federico died suddenly, Mr. Dudeck succeeded him. He was appointed as chief of the Police Department for the consolidated Princeton on January 1, 2013 and officially retired from his post on Sept. 1, of that same year, a month earlier than expected.

Captain Nick Sutter led the new department until being officially promoted to Chief earlier this year.

The officers have asked for a jury trial and are suing for compensatory damages for emotional stress, pain and suffering, lost promotion, employment, wages and benefits, as well as attorney’s fees and punitive damages.

The municipality has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to respond to “discovery.”

But according to Mr. Peluso, the lawsuit might be heard as early as this month or perhaps in September.