Brigantine police captains sought investigation

Brigantine police captains sought investigation of outgoing chief despite case having been settled, court document shows

Press of Atlantic City
January 28, 2011 | Lemongello, Steven

BRIGANTINE – The same day that former police Chief Jim Frugoli talked about delaying his planned retirement, two police captains – including future Chief John Stone – started to push for a sexual harassment investigation against Frugoli, against the wishes of the alleged victim, a court document filed by the city’s attorney shows.

That and other court documents were released as part of a lawsuit by open public records advocate John Paff, who was seeking access to both the city’s investigation report and its settlement agreement with Frugoli.

Paff, as well as The Press of Atlantic City, were denied access to those documents by the city, and appeals to the state were unsuccessful. Paff filed a complaint in state Superior Court in December.

Read copies of the court documents

This month, Paff, a member of the New Jersey Libertarian Party, settled with the city on the part of his complaint regarding Frugoli’s settlement agreement. On Tuesday, Paff was sent a copy of that agreement, which he gave to The Press.

In that document, signed March 30, 2010 – the day before Frugoli officially announced his retirement effective June 1 – Frugoli and the alleged victim, whose name Paff never sought and which was redacted from the document, signed an agreement in which all potential claims and lawsuits stemming from the complaint would be dropped in connection with Frugoli taking terminal leave beginning April 1 and retiring June 1.

Frugoli, the alleged victim and City Manager Jim Barber signed the agreement, which includes a confidentiality clause. The alleged victim was not paid any money by the city, the agreement states.

Paff also sent The Press a copy of the brief filed Dec. 17 by Brigantine City Attorney Tim Maguire, which Paff said was not sealed by the court.

In the brief, Maguire – arguing against Paff’s allegation that Frugoli was “terminated” or received anything more than his retirement package and pension – laid out the city’s version of the story behind Frugoli’s investigation and retirement.

Maguire described Stone and Capt. Raymond Cox as “the two individuals eligible to ascend to the position of chief.” Maguire, stating that Frugoli was considering retirement in December, included a copy of a Frugoli request for information about terminal leave on Dec. 16, 2009, “before any allegations were made.”

On Feb. 4, 2010, Frugoli sent an internal Police Department e-mail announcing his retirement “effective March or April,” which Maguire also included in his brief, along with a retirement application with an effective date of April 1.

On Feb. 16, Maguire stated, Frugoli and Stone traveled to an Atlantic County Association of Chiefs of Police meeting so Frugoli could “introduce Capt. Stone as his probable successor upon Frugoli’s retirement. However, Chief Frugoli was having second thoughts regarding his retirement date and informed Capt. Stone during the trip … that he was going to delay his expected date of retirement.”

Upon their return, Maguire stated, “word quickly spread throughout the Police Department (about the delay). … That very DAY, Capt. Cox claimed he learned about sexual harassment which had occurred associated with Chief Frugoli. … Both Capt. Cox and Capt. Stone claim they were unaware that any improper behavior had occurred until being informed of the same on Feb. 16, 2010.”

The alleged victim, Maguire stated, “has made perfectly clear to all involved that she did not want to file any type of complaint or grievance against Chief Frugoli and wanted the matter to remain confidential. Despite this, Capt. Cox and Capt. Stone conferred and insisted that an investigation must commence. … Cox, on Feb. 22, 2010, hand-delivered an Internal Affairs complaint to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office alleging sexual harassment against the victim by Chief Frugoli.”

When the city was told that the prosecutor did not want to investigate, the city hired attorney Susan Hodges to do its own investigation. Hodges issued a 15-page investigation report March 22, which the city has not released.

“Based on these series of events,” Maguire stated, Frugoli decided to sign the agreement and announce his retirement, which he said was due to complications from back surgery.”

“(Frugoli) was paid what he was entitled to upon his retirement, similar to any other employee,” Maguire stated. “He was not given any additional monetary compensation of any nature.”

In a separate letter to Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson, Maguire also explained why City Manager Barber, in an April 9 story in The Press, was quoted as saying, “There was an internal investigation, and we are confident (in its results). There were a lot of rumors, but did anything really occur? No.”

Paff questioned whether there was a “cover-up,” but Maguire said Barber was referring to a completely different investigation into another rumor about Frugoli’s “outside” conduct that proved to be false.

“In my mind, this justifies the lawsuit,” Paff said. “(This shows) that the personnel matter between Frugoli and Jane Doe was settled, and as part of the agreement, he would retire June 1 and never seek employment with the city of Brigantine again. There was a causal connection. It wasn’t just a bad back.”

A hearing was held Thursday in Superior Court regarding Paff’s complaint seeking Hodges’ investigation report. Maguire said the judge asked for a copy of the report and wanted time to read it.

Calls to the Police Department were referred to Barber, who referred comment to Maguire, who said he could not comment on any other details of an ongoing case.

Frugoli, as he has done since April, did not return calls for comment.

Contact Steven Lemongello:

609-272-7275

SLemongello@pressofac.com

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