Judge backs fired township worker on ‘threats’

Threats allegedly made regarding a supervisor deemed "exaggerated and did not warrant discipline."

By: David Campbell
   A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of a Princeton Township employee who claimed he was unjustly fired in October 2000 for allegedly threatening the life of his supervisor.
   Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled April 19 that the threat Leon Redding, an employee in the township’s Department of Public Works from July 1990 until Oct. 5, 2000, allegedly made against his supervisor, Dennis Sullivan, was upon closer examination "exaggerated and did not warrant discipline," according to township attorney Edwin Schmierer.
   But Mr. Schmierer said Judge Feinberg ruled that the township’s decision to suspend Mr. Redding immediately upon learning of the alleged threat was "appropriate."
   The Township Committee on Monday night held a closed-session meeting to discuss the ruling. Township Administrator James Pascale said he could not comment on the outcome of that meeting, and did not say if Mr. Redding will be given his job back.
   Mr. Redding, who is black, has another lawsuit, filed in April 1999, pending in Superior Court in which he claims he was the target of racial discrimination by Mr. Sullivan and the township.
   In the suit recently ruled on by Judge Feinberg, Mr. Redding claimed he was fired in retaliation for the pending discrimination lawsuit. He also alleged that his disciplinary hearing officer, Mr. Pascale, was not neutral or detached, and in the past had unfairly disciplined him.
   Mr. Redding’s attorney, Thaddius P. Mikulski Jr., has asserted that Mr. Redding never made the threat that led to his firing by Mr. Pascale, who, along with Princeton Township, was named as a defendant in the suit.
   But Mr. Mikulski has said Mr. Redding did make a comment that could be construed as a threat on his supervisor’s life, which is alleged to have occurred during a telephone conversation between Mr. Redding and his sister, Ella Womack, on May 7, 1999.
   Ms. Womack called the Princeton Township Police Department following that conversation, and alerted the police to the threat, at which time Ms. Womack also claimed her brother intended to kill himself, according to a report filed by Mr. Pascale.
   The report goes on to say that Mr. Redding denied making the threat but admitted he "mentioned to my sister … I could see why people can go postal and that was it."