Christian V. McOmber, Peter D. Valenzano, and Lauren M. Hill represent Anthony Smith in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against Hudson County. Named Defendants in the lawsuit include Mario Fernandez, Paul Morales, and Becky Scott.
As alleged in the lawsuit, Mr. Smith is a Corrections Officer in Defendant Hudson County with twenty (20) years of exceptional service. Not only has he gone above and beyond the call of duty with the department, but he has also had a long-standing commitment to bettering the community. In 2009, Mr. Smith founded the Blacks and Law Enforcement Servicing the Community Organization (“BLSEC”), which aims to bridge the gap between the Hudson County Community and its law enforcement officers. BLSEC also provides mentorship programs and community outreach services.
In recognition of Mr. Smith’s loyalty and dedication to both the department and the community, in 2020 he was promoted to the position of Community Outreach Officer. As Community outreach officer, Mr. Smith would travel to schools throughout Hudson County to foster positive relationships with students, visit students’ homes when they did not attend school, attend court proceedings with juveniles, and mentor students.
In August 2022, Mr. Smith learned Defendant Fernandez, a Sergeant at the Hudson County Corrections Facility, choked an inmate who was being processed into jail. In fact, the choking incident was captured in the inmate’s mug shot. Mr. Smith immediately reported Defendant Fernandez’s unnecessary and unlawful use of force to the Hudson County Board of County Commissioners, which launched an investigation.
As alleged in the complaint, thereafter Mr. Smith was subjected to a relentless campaign of retaliation. The retaliation commenced just a few days later when Defendant Morales, Mr. Smith’s supervisor, sent Mr. Smith a series of text messages demanding to know who sent Mr. Smith the photograph of Defendant Fernandez choking the inmate. Mr. Smith refused to disclose the identity of the individual who sent him the photograph and suggested Defendant Fernandez cease his inquiry, as the matter concerned “whistleblowing.”
Subsequently, Mr. Smith was stripped of his prestigious Community Outreach Officer title and demoted to a position inside the Hudson County Corrections Facility. Because Mr. Smith was renowned in the Hudson County Community for his tireless efforts to bridge the gap between the County’s residents and its law enforcement officers, the Hudson County community was outraged by Mr. Smith’s retaliatory demotion. The community even held several supportive rallies calling for Mr. Smith’s return to his Community Outreach position.
In further retaliation, Mr. Smith was also provided job assignments that were not commensurate with his twenty (20) years of tenure at Defendant Hudson County. For example, while Mr. Smith’s peers were assigned to favorable jobs outside the Hudson County Corrections Facility, Mr. Smith was relegated to working a detail with federal and maximum-security inmates, who are notoriously the most difficult and dangerous inmates in the Hudson County prison system. Although Mr. Smith complained about the retaliation, Defendant Hudson County failed to take corrective measures. Instead, Defendant County commenced a perfunctory investigation, which entirely failed to remediate Mr. Smith’s hostile and retaliatory working environment.
“Mr. Smith has given every ounce of his heart and soul to the department during his long tenure. He has faithfully served his community by actively supporting and mentoring at-risk youth, both personally and in his role as Community Outreach Officer. As alleged in the complaint, after Mr. Smith exposed an egregious abuse of power in the Hudson County Corrections Facility, he was retaliated against and stripped of his Community Outreach Officer position and further subjected to retaliatory assignments. We stand united with our client in exposing this outrageous and unlawful behavior.” Christian V. McOmber, Esq.
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