NJ City Settles Reverse Discrimination Suit for $450k

A New Jersey city has settled a contentious dispute with a deputy chief that resulted in three separate lawsuits and an investigation by the local prosecutor’s office.

The City of Plainfield has agreed to pay Deputy Chief Jeffrey Courtney $450,000 in exchange for his agreement to dismiss two suits he has pending, dismiss a pending workers comp claim, and retire.

Chief Courtney filed suit in 2015 alleging he had been the victim of reverse race discrimination by Fire Chief Frank Tidwell. Chief Courtney filed a second suit alleging a violation of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act. A third suit was filed by Chief Tidwell who alleged he was the victim of a conspiracy between Chief Courtney and Director of Public Safety Carl Riley to remove him as fire chief.

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office investigated Chief Tidwell on allegations of misuse of authority, misappropriating funds and ethics violations. MyCentralNewJersey.com quoted Chief Tidwell as saying the investigation was “basically about work being done in the office and the work that’s done by off-duty firefighters, which has been a part of our past practices for decades” and that “The investigation is concluded and there will be no disciplinary action.”

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Chief Courtney will be on paid leave until August 31, at which time his retirement will become effective. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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