Published Sept. 6, 2017 by the Asbury Park Press.
TINTON FALLS – Taxpayers are more than $1.1 million poorer after the borough agreed to settle lawsuits from two police officers who claim they were harassed after blowing the whistle on a fellow cop accused of stealing municipal water.
The borough agreed in March to a $600,000 payment to settle the second whistleblower lawsuit against the borough’s police department. The suit stemmed from a 2008 allegation that a borough police officer used an illegal water diverter to bypass his home’s water meter. Another officer who filed a similar suit, former police Lt. Kevin Pierson, settled for $527,500 in 2015.
The latest settlement was obtained by the Asbury Park Press through a government records request. As part of the agreement, the officer who made the whistleblower claim, Thomas Dennehy, was promoted to sergeant. He dismissed his suit against the borough. He earns a salary of $129,276 according to pension data.
The borough made no admission of wrongdoing. The borough is part of a taxpayer-funded insurance pool. Court documents did not state how much of the $600,000 settlement would come from the town and how much would come from the insurance pool.
In early 2008, Pierson claimed in that he learned that then-Sergeant David Scrivanic had used a device to take municipal water without paying for it, according to Dennehy’s suit. Pierson said he notified the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, according to the suit.
Pierson’s actions prompted department retaliation against him in the form of disciplinary charges that were later withdrawn after the prosecutor’s office threatened to take over the police department’s internal affairs unit, according to the lawsuit.
Pierson turned for assistance to Dennehy, who served as the state delegate of the Policeman’s Benevolent Association Local No. 251. Dennehy came under fire after he objected to the way Pierson was treated, according to his lawsuit. Dennehy claimed he was given retaliatory job assignments and passed over for promotion.
Dennehy claimed his supervisor, then-Sgt. Gerald Turning Jr., asked for a meeting near a garbage dump, where Turning asked that they “talk like we are not wearing police shirts,” and “berated” Dennehy for not protecting Scrivanic and tipping him off to the investigation, according to the lawsuit.
A panel of appellate judges who reviewed the case said the facts presented in Dennehy’s suit “implicate what is commonly referred to as the ‘blue wall’ of police silence.” They said Turning Jr.’s implication Dennehy should have tipped off David Scrivanic “smacks of perpetrating an illegal police cover up…”
Dennehy filed his lawsuit in 2011, battling the borough’s appeals all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The state’s highest court declined to hear the case in April 2016, kicking it back down to the county level. Dennehy’s lawsuit was settled March 28.
Dennehy sued the borough and police department, mentioning individuals in the text of the lawsuit.
Gerald Turning Sr., who was police chief at the time of 2008 claim, is now mayor of the borough. His son, Turning Jr., who allegedly met Dennehy at the dump, was promoted to captain.
David Scrivanic, who was alleged to have diverted water, was also promoted to captain. No criminal charges were filed. But the prosecutor’s office recommended discipline against Scrivanic, according to Dennehy’s lawsuit.
His brother, John Scrivanic, became chief of the department.
When contacted for comment, Turning Sr., the mayor, said he was in a meeting and would be available later, but didn’t answer later calls. He collects a pension of $118,658, data shows.
The mayor and borough previously denied the whistleblower allegations.
Gerald Turning Jr., David Scrivanic, John Scrivanic, and the attorney representing Dennehy did not return calls seeking comment.
Turning Jr. earns $183,208; he’s served as a police officer for 21 years, according to pension data. David Scrivanic earns $183,208 and has served for 20 years. John Scrivanic earns $191,219 and has served for 26 years.