Paterson council balks at settling public works director Manuel Ojeda’s retaliation lawsuit | Paterson Times

Paterson council balks at settling public works director Manuel Ojeda’s retaliation lawsuit


The city council opted not to settle public works director Manuel Ojeda’s retaliation lawsuit for $175,000 on Tuesday night.

Council members were expected to vote on a settlement resolution during the special meeting, but after a closed door executive session the governing body did not take any actions. The resolution would have settled Ojeda’s lawsuit filed in early 2014 by paying $10,000 within the next month and $165,000 in the next fiscal year.

“There was no agreement,” said council president William McKoy. “The council couldn’t settle.”

Ojeda alleges in the lawsuit former public works director Christopher Coke subjected him to “ridicules” and “derogatory comments” creating a hostile work environment at the department.

Ojeda, who served as public works director previously under mayor Jose Torres’ administration, said his work life drastically changed for the negative, when he was demoted as director upon Jones’ ascension to office.

Jones appointed Coke to the director post rather than keep Ojeda. The lawsuit states Ojeda’s work as sanitation inspector doubled after the demotion without increase in pay. Others in the department did not see their work load increase, according to the lawsuit.

Ojeda alleges at one point Coke attempted to cut his salary down by $40,000, according to court records.

The lawsuit states Ojeda was subjected to the alleged actions because of his ties to the Torres administration. “You and Joey did a fine job f**king this department up,” Coke is alleged to have told Ojeda.

Ojeda filed complaints with the city’s Affirmative Action Office, but no actions were taken to remedy the matter, according to the lawsuit.

This is not the first time the council refused to pay Ojeda to settle the lawsuit. Many times in the past year, the city’s law department presented resolutions to settle the matter, but each time the council refused to do so.

In late 2014, the council balked at settling the lawsuit by paying $215,000 in settlement. It also refused several other times to settle.

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