On July 11, 2014, a second amended complaint was filed in the on-going matter titled Richmond LaPolla vs County of Union; George Devanney, County Manager and individually, adding a Third Count for Retaliation for Filing a Lawsuit seeking his rights under New Jersey Civil Rights Act. The original complaint was filed In September 2011. The Third Count is in response to LaPolla being passed over for a position that was filled in June 2014. The case is set for trial on October 16, 2014.
Richmond LaPolla has been employed by the County of Union since September 15, 1979 – going on thirty-five years. According to his lawsuit, LaPolla received many positive reviews and worked under a number of County Managers appointed by both political parties – never with any problems until George Devanney. LaPolla claims to have been punished because of his brother Michael LaPolla’s falling out of favor with then power-broker Charlotte DeFilippo whom he openly criticized her use of power and authority to manage and manipulate county workers as well as most of the county manager’s duties.
Michael LaPolla retired from the positon of County Manager, and George Devanney filled the spot. He then set out to harass Richmond LaPolla. During the height of his career Richmond LaPolla was Director of Department of Operations and Facilities. In this position LaPolla managed a work force of over 200 county employees and maintained over one million square feet of office space. Despite his extensive experience and skill, Devanney had him transferred to a position at the Union County Vocational School and thereafter to the Union County Juvenile Detention Center where his office was a utilities closet. In November 2011, LaPolla was transferred to Watchung Stables where he remains to the present time. In all of these positions, although LaPolla receives a salary of $126,780, he has no meaningful duties to perform.
According to his lawsuit, in September 2013, LaPolla became aware that the position of Division Head in the Department of Facilities Management, a position that he held for many years, had become vacant when Niel Palmieri resigned. LaPolla made a request that he be given this position, restoring him to his rightful civil service job.
Niel Palmieri resigned his position as Director of Facilities Management on Friday, September 27th via an email from his iPhone to his boss, Joe Graziano. The following Wednesday, on October 2, he pleaded guilty in Federal court in Newark to mail fraud. Palmieri admitted to filing purchase orders for goods which were never received, the vendor, Viva Group, then paid Palmieri. Frank Vicendese of the Viva Group also pleaded guilty. Neither Palmieri or Vicendese have been sentenced to date.
In February 2014 LaPolla learned that the position, which had been temporarily filled, was being posted and he timely applied for it and was interviewed. LaPolla believed he was the most qualified individual for this position and as he repeatedly advised the decision makers, he had experience performing the duties of the position, further the county giving him the job would save the county a considerable amount of money.
On June 10, 2014 LaPolla learned that another county employee had been selected to fill the position and that he was starting in the position that day. Charles Chirafesi, was first hired by the county in January 2003 and last worked a clerical position in the Park and Community Renewal Department. He has a Civil Service title of carpenter and is receiving a salary of $88,000 per year, a $20,000 increase. The individual selected has no administration nor supervisory experience and does not meet the minimum requirements set forth in the posted position.
LaPolla was never given any reason why he was not selected to fill the position for which he was clearly qualified and for which he was already receiving the job salary.
LaPolla amended his complaint to assert a third count alleging that the County had deliberately and intentionally continued to deprive Plaintiff of his rightful position in retaliation for his having filed a lawsuit asserting his rights under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act.
LaPolla is seeking to be reinstated to a position to commensurate with his civil service title, with all offices, staff, and duties of his civil service position and in a physical location where he worked before the harassment began.