Hurley: Regarding the Allegations, Lawsuit Against Atlantic Co. Prosecutor Damon Tyner
"Hurley in the Morning" has conducted a thorough investigation into certain allegations that have been made against Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner.
Today, I am prepared to release part one of our in depth investigation as follows:
Today, one current employee and two former employees of the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office are filing a lawsuit against the County of Atlantic and the current Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner.
I reported a few months ago, at the time that these same three persons wrote a narrative requesting that Tyner be formally investigated by the New Jersey State Attorney General, that the whole point of this (in my estimation) was that "future" litigation would be filed, seeking alleged damages.
That day has now arrived.
I have been investigating a number of circumstances and issues regarding this matter and today I'm prepared to release the findings of part one of my investigation as follows:
The three persons who are filing suit today are:
- Diane Ruberton - former First Deputy Assistant Atlantic County Prosecutor.
- Heather McManus - a retired Lt. within the Atlantic County Prosecutors office.
- Donna Fetzer - a current Chief Assistant Atlantic County Prosecutor.
While this trio is alleging certain things about Tyner, most all of which I don't believe are true, we have learned and confirmed some important facts and have some some basic questions for them that we will pose today:
Regarding Ruberton - There are currently two lawsuits that name her and allege that she was a part of implementing a practice of age discrimination.
Tracey O’Brien vs. County of Atlantic and Ruberton - Former Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain also a named defendant.
In the State vs. Jay Collins - Ruberton is named in this legal matter. It was Ruberton who made the recommendation to fire Jay Collins, who was then in his 60s. Ruberton also delivered the news of Collins' termination.
Ruberton is also named in a 3rd lawsuit - The case is Castro vs. County of Atlantic and Diane Ruberton.
Castro was indicted for murder of a man in Mullica Township. The indictment was dismissed. Castro is suing for malicious prosecution.
Multiple well placed sources have confirmed to me that although there was no new evidence available, Ruberton indicted Castro, again. There was absolutely no "there" there which implicated Castro, and, the case was dismissed, again.
Multiple sources have also reported to me that Ruberton is alleged to have engaged in the same conduct that she has accused Tyner of... these sources are referring to how Ruberton (as Acting Prosecutor) handled Cary Shill, Mario Formica, and Seth Levy.
All three were placed by Ruberton into relative obscurity, while it may not be the polite or right thing to do, however, I believe that the Acting Prosecutor (Ruberton) had the authority to exercise her executive discretion.
Sources have also confirmed to me that Ruberton had placed a sign/plaque on her office door that read, “I Make Boys Cry.”
Ruberton has accused Tyner of having an all-male team, yet, Ruberton implemented an all female team. Again, I believe that it was Ruberton's prerogative to put in place a team of her choice and she did with all women in the top leadership positions.
Pam Darcy was named by Ruberton as the Acting First Assistant Prosecutor; Donna Fetzer was named the Acting Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor.
Regarding the retired Lt. Heather McManus- a review of her previous law enforcement agencies employment record should be conducted. I've done an initial review. Here are some important questions which must be explored. Has McManus ever filed litigation against any previous employer for discrimination or anything else?
Further, regarding McManus- What was the outcome of any previous litigation that she filed against any previous employer or employers?
Still further regarding McManus- Were there any allegations of racial profiling ever filed against her during any of her previous work assignments?
If so, what were the various outcomes?
Donna Fetzer is the Chief Assistant Atlantic County Prosecutor for the screening unit.
Fetzer has held this position since March, 2017. Prior to that, she was the Acting First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor from October 2016 until March 2017
When Damon Tyner became the Atlantic County prosecutor, Fetzer was not demoted -- she was reassigned to her previous position as Chief Assistant Prosecutor.
Tyner actually could have fired her upon becoming the Atlantic County Prosecutor. He didn't do that.
Here are a few more basic questions for Ruberton that must be answered, so that there is a fair accounting of the actual facts and not just an airing of the salacious and unproven allegations that are presently being leveled against Tyner.
They say that no good deed goes unpunished. This appears to hold true regarding Tyner. My investigation has yielded the following results: Tyner assisted Ruberton in a very generous and material fashion. Here's how. First, Tyner could have fired Ruberton without cause at the time of his appointment as Atlantic County. He didn't do that.
Had Tyner simply fired Ruberton, she would have fallen short of her 20 years of public employment under the old pension system. Ruberton needed an additional seven (7) months of employment at the time of Tyner's appointment. Tyner retained Ruberton, which enabled her to reach 20 years of employment service.
The pension system has dramatically changed. Had Tyner not retained Ruberton, she would have moved into the current 401K employee pension system. Also, Ruberton would not have been eligible to collect a pension until she turned 55 years of age under the new system.
By allowing Ruberton to reach 20 years of consecutive employment service, Ruberton was eligible to collect 50% of her last year's salary at the age of 48. Ruberton's last salary was $145,000 per-year, thus giving giving Ruberton a pension of $72,500 per-year for her lifetime. This doesn't look like discrimination or retaliation to me.
At 25 years of service Ruberton would’ve been eligible for an annual pension equal to 65% of her last year's salary. It is also important to note that despite making various public complaints about Tyner. Ruberton actually earned more in salary (under Tyner) as First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor then she did under McClain as the 1st Assistant Prosecutor.
Here is the real coup de grace -- There had never been, in the entire history of Atlantic County, the position of First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor. The previous structure had been a prosecutor and first assistant prosecutor.
When Ruberton became the Acting Prosecutor when McClain was appointed as a Superior Court Judge. Ruberton created the position of Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor which then resulted in a $30,000 salary increase for a Ruberton friend and co-plaintiff.
When Tyner became prosecutor, he exercised his executive authority and named Cary Shill to be the first assistant prosecutor. Tyner named Mario Formica as the first deputy assistant prosecutor.
I have learned about a meeting that took place between Tyner and Ruberton prior to Tyner taking office. Tyner made the unprecedented decision and created a position for a second first deputy assistant prosecutor.
This was despite the initial objection of Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, purely for budgetary reasons. The truth is that instead of firing Ruberton, Tyner successfully negotiated with the county administration to obtain the funding to make it possible to retain Ruberton in a new position that had never existed in the past.
Yes, it's true that no good deed goes by unpunished. Tyner could simply have fired Ruberton. Instead, he retained her; he helped her get to her pivotal 20-year mark for her life-time, generous pension.
After a careful review of incontrovertible facts, I fail to see where Ruberton has experienced any damages or negative employment work conditions whatsoever.
The complaint against Tyner is that he didn't do anything to address gender discrimination. However, the actual facts disprove this specious allegation.
I have also learned about the existence of a 60 page report, prepared by the distinguished, retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donio.
Judge Donio concluded that no gender discrimination existed under the Tyner administration. I have learned about three complaints made by Ruberton, which are addressed within the Donio Report. They are petty and ridiculous as follows:
Ruberton complained that her name and profile was not listed above Mario Formica on the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office website. I have confirmed that it was explained to Ruberton that the listing was merely based upon alphabetical order. Ruberton now knows that F precedes R in the English Language alphabet.
Ruberton's second complaint was that there are two parking spots named "First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor" ... no specific/individual name is listed... just the employee job title. Ruberton complained that Formica was given the parking space that is exactly one space closer to the door vs. her parking space. Ruberton was advised that Formica arrives to work each morning at 7:30 AM, well ahead of her arrival time. There was no assigned parking space between the two employees... it was on a purely first come, first-serve basis... and Formica arrived first on a daily basis.
Ruberton's third complaint was that she alleges that she was not provided a seat on the dais at the press conference regarding arrests made in the April Kaufman murder case. It was explained to Ruberton that this was because she did absolutely nothing in the current (Tyner era) investigation or during her time as the Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor.
This begs a final question from me... why didn't Ruberton further the April Kaufman murder investigation during the time she served as the Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor?
After a fair examination of the facts... they are stubborn and persistent ... and, my conclusion is that they clearly illustrate that Tyner is not guilty of any wrongdoing and that this lawsuit against him that's being filed today should ultimately be dismissed on summary judgment.
Note: Damon Tyner appeared on Hurley in the Morning Wednesday morning and stated on-air that everything reported above is accurate.