Fulop fired us for supporting rival, ex-workers allege in lawsuit
NJ.com, April 8, 2016
JERSEY CITY – Two former Jersey City Parking Authority workers are suing the city and Mayor Steve Fulop, alleging they were fired because they supported Fulop’s chief rival in the 2013 mayoral race.
David Lerner and Fernando Picariello, who each worked for the now-disbanded JCPA for two decades, say that they weren’t re-hired when the city absorbed the JCPA because they campaigned for former Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who lost the 2013 race to Fulop.
In the nine-page suit filed in December in Hudson County Superior Court, the two men called their terminations “a political hatchet job.” Judge Joseph Turula heard arguments last week from city attorneys hoping to get the suit tossed. Turula hasn’t made a decision yet.
Both men have been defendants in sexual harassment suits filed by former co-workers. Lerner and Picariello were named in a suit filed in 2008 by a JCPA worker who alleged the two men sexually harassed her. The agency settled in 2011 for $300,000. Picariello was the defendant in a separate sexual harassment suit filed in 2011.
The City Council next week is expected to approve a $50,000 contract to Newark law firm Calcagni & Kanefsky to defend the city in court. City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill declined to comment. Lerner and Picariello are represented by Steven I. Adler of the Mandelbaum Salsburg law firm in Roseland.
The Fulop administration in the past has noted that a number of Healy officials were retained after Fulop became mayor, including Morrill, Business Administrator Bob Kakoleski and Greg Kierce, who heads the Office of Emergency Management.
Fulop unseated Healy after a heated campaign that saw Healy depend on city workers for their support.
Lerner, an assistant CEO at the JCPA, was a ward coordinator for Healy’s 2013 campaign. Picariello, an acting special assistant at the parking agency, alleges in the lawsuit that he donated to Healy’s campaign despite preferring Fulop.
“Healy requested that Picariello support his reelection and requested a financial contribution,” the lawsuit reads. “One day Fulop saw Picariello, questioned him about his political support and learned that Picariello was supporting Healy. From that day forward Fulop refused to speak with Picariello.”
After Fulop’s election, he eliminated the JCPA, which was established as an autonomous city agency in 1949. Fulop had campaigned on dissolving all of the city’s outside agencies and bringing their duties under the control of city government.
Lerner and Picariello say that in 2014 they received civil-service titles for their expected city jobs, but they were told later that year that the city would not offer them positions. They say they did not receive severance pay.
Picariello remains jobless, while Lerner has a job that pays him significantly less than his JCPA salary, they say.
The two men are seeking damages and want their jobs back.
In November 2014, John Tarantula, chair of the JCPA’s board of commissioners, characterized Fulop’s bid to dissolve the agency as “get-even time” because of the amount of Healy support among JCPA officials. City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill responded then by calling the JCPA “a political cesspool of useless jobs for decades.”
Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.