NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – On March 15, the Appellate Division of the
Superior Court of New Jersey handed down an opinion on a case filed by a former Port
Authority employee who alleged retaliation and civil conspiracy against the
Judge Marie P. Simonelli and her colleagues affirmed summary
judgment to the defendant, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,
dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.
According to the opinion, plaintiff Brian Sullivan worked
as a police officer with the Port Authority’s Public Safety Department for 25
years and attained the rank of police inspector. As inspector, Sullivan
was also a subject matter expert for the development and administration of the examination
process for prospective sergeants.
The opinion states that Sullivan failed to report improper
conduct and other improprieties, as required by a document the plaintiff signed titled Subject Matter Expert, Test Security Instructions, which compromised the
integrity of the examination. Upon
completion of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General, the Port
Authority’s human resources department recommended Sullivan be given the option
to retire, prior to facing disciplinary charges.
Sullivan tendered his resignation on June 6, 2012, followed
by serving a notice of claim against the agency the following August, alleging
violations of the New York Whistleblower Law (NYWL).
In May 2013, Sullivan filed a complaint against the Port
Authority, as well as six individual employees, alleging retaliation and civil
conspiracy in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Act (CEPA). He
asked for relief in the form of reinstatement and damages.
In response, the defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment, arguing that the Port Authority is not subject to CEPA because is a
bi-state agency created through an interstate compact. The defendants further argued that, as a bi-state agency, that the Port Authority is not governed by a single state
legislation, and that the NYWL is not complementary to CEPA.
As a result of the summary judgment, the plaintiff withdrew
his claim for reinstatement.
Simonelli said the plaintiff failed to file required responses
and supporting documents to substantiate allegations – relying instead on
unverified allegations in his complaint and merits of brief on appeal. The opinion states that the plaintiff’s lack
of evidence was insufficient to defeat the defendant’s summary judgment
In addition, Simonelli agreed that the Port Authority is not
subject to suit under CEPA, because it is a bi-state agency whose governing
states lack complimentary and parallel legislation in regard to plaintiff’s
allegations. The opinion further states
that CEPA and the NYWL are also significantly different with respect to the
types of remedies and damages available.