The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit filed under the state’s whistleblower protection law for $250,000, ending litigation between the agency and former Director of Central Service Scott Bundy, who said he was fired after reporting what he alleged to be illegal activities involving former MUA Commissioner Patrick L. Bottazzi.
The suit was settled Sept. 7 and signed by Bundy Oct. 7, according to court documents.
In his complaint against the MUA, Bundy said in August 2010 he came to find out that Bottazzi was suffering from financial difficulties and was attempting to secure a $1.5 million loan from Crown Bank in exchange for using his influence as commissioner to transfer the MUA’s bank accounts to Crown. Bundy, the complaint states, informed MUA auditor Frank Holman of the activity, thus invoking whistleblower protection.
When Holman confronted Bottazzi on the matter, Bundy alleges Bottazzi “screamed” at Holman and threatened his appointment as auditor the following year. On Aug. 30, 2010, Bottazzi called Bundy a “rat.”
Ultimately, on Sept. 27, 2010, the MUA did transfer its accounts to Crown Bank. After the vote was taken, Bottazzi allegedly stated in public, “I got my loan,” according to the complaint. A check of records with the Ocean County Clerk’s Office confirms that just two days later, Bottazzi and the same bank closed on a $1.5 million loan.[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]
Read the Documents
- Bundy’s complaint against the MUA
- Settlement agreement
- Resolution appointing Crown Bank as the MUA’s depositor
- Bottazzi’s loan documents
Following the vote, Bundy contacted the FBI on the matter. In July 2011, the lawsuit states, a report was issued on the bank switch, which noted a commissioner received a loan at about the same time. That same month, the complaint alleges, Bottazzi confronted Bundy and said, “You’re nothing but a f-cking rat. You went to the FBI about some made-up bank scandal.”
Bundy further alleged in the lawsuit that, in January 2012, he learned that Bottazzi struck a deal with fellow commissioner Joseph Veni to allow Veni to become chairman of the board of commissioners in exchange for terminating his employment. The lawsuit states Water Quality Director Joseph Maggio told Bundy, “Pat just traded the chairmanship for your head on a silver platter.”
That same month, Bottazzi “introduced knowing false charges” against Bundy in order to have him fired, according to court documents. By April, Bundy’s authority was decreased at the MUA and he found himself the subject of an agency investigation over whether he destroyed or manipulated documents. Soon after, he received a 60 day notice telling him that his employment was terminated.
The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause that prohibits Bundy, the MUA and Bottazzi from speaking about the matter. It also contains a clause stating neither party admits any wrongdoing in the matter. The settlement was signed by current MUA Chairman George Cevasco – who was not serving on the MUA when any of the events chronicled in the lawsuit occurred – and Bottazzi, as well as Bundy.
Though the confidentiality clause applies, such civil agreements do not preclude the public from obtaining access to settlement documents in cases where taxpayer-funded agencies are named as a defendant.
MUA officials did not respond to a request from Shorebeat to comment on the settlement.
John Paff, an open government advocate with the New Jersey Libertarian Party who first uncovered the settlement agreement, said the truth of the matter remains clouded.
“All that is known for sure is that Brick or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bundy $250,000 than take the matter to trial,” Paff wrote. “Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial – it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.”