Controversial construction official Gennaro “Jerry” Lobozzo has filed a lawsuit against Paterson claiming to be a victim of retaliation.
Lobozzo’s alleged grievances go back to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration. Torres had briefly appointed Lobozzo, an Elmwood Park plumber, to serve as acting director of the Division of Community Improvement in February 2015. Torres also hired community activist David Gilmore to serve as contract compliance officer in March 2015.
Considerable bad blood began to build between Lobozzo and Gilmore after Torres appointed the former to serve as acting Community Improvement director. Lobozzo’s lawsuit alleges the appointment “sparked the wrath” of Gilmore.
Gilmore allegedly began a “campaign of harassment and discrimination against” Lobozzo, says the lawsuit. Gilmore threatened to set the black community against Torres if Lobozzo is not removed and he, Gilmore, is not appointed as to the directorship, alleges the suit.
Lobozzo claims Torres gave into the threats and demoted him. Lobozzo was demoted to the post of construction official while Gilmore was appointed as director.
His lawsuit also accuses the municipal government of “improperly diverting construction office fees.” He claims the city is not allowed to deposit uniform construction code fees into its general fund. He allegedly blew the whistle on the practice.
Lobozzo’s 64-page lawsuit repeatedly attacks Gilmore and his co-workers. He names the city, Gilmore, and mayor Andre Sayegh in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Lobozzo faced disciplinary actions because he was late to work and “misused public property.” The lawsuit said these “trumped-up disciplinary charges are a typical retaliatory tactic to punish” Lobozzo for “voicing his good-faith objections” to the city’s enforcement actions that he felt were unlawful.
Former economic development director Ruben Gomez and Gilmore also allegedly “retaliated” against him by contacting Lobozzo’s part-time employers to “jeopardize his career.” Lobozzo works part-time for Elmwood Park. He claims Gomez contacted Passaic City, costing Lobozzo his job there.
Lobozzo was disciplined for telling businesses and property owners to call police on housing inspectors when they visited a site to conduct inspections, says the lawsuit. Gilmore recommended a 15-day suspension that Lobozzo found “draconian.” He ultimately received a five-day suspension without pay in October 2018. The lawsuit states Lobozzo received a hearing before a retired judge, but that hearing was “flawed.”
Lobozzo claims he continues to face retaliation. He states assistant economic development director Charles Osner has “inundated” him with requests seeking “unnecessary reports.” He claims Osner is making the requests at Gilmore’s direction.
On Thursday, when asked about the lawsuit, Gilmore said anyone can file a lawsuit, suggesting Lobozzo is unlikely to prevail.
Lobozzo is seeking an unspecified amount in damages in the lawsuit filed last Friday.
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