After the City of Hackensack has spent MILLIONS defending him on various lawsuits, now the former police chief has the audacity to sue the City of Hackensack. I think we have a new definition of the word "ungrateful".Zisa files suit against Hackensack and former president of police union.
MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2013 LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY AUGUST 27, 2013, 6:52 AM
BY STEPHANIE AKIN
HACKENSACK — Former Police Chief Ken Zisa, who is under house arrest following his criminal conviction for insurance fraud and official misconduct, filed a lawsuit against the city and the former president of its police union on Monday.
The complaint, the latest in a series of lawsuits dealing with Zisa’s tumultuous final years as chief, alleges that former Officer Anthony Ferraioli tried to coerce Zisa into dropping a disciplinary charge in 2010 and then, a year after the matter was resolved, filed two “baseless” police reports against Zisa, who by then had been suspended from his duties and was preparing for his criminal trial.
The 8-page document, filed without fanfare in U.S. District Court in Newark, is the first public action that Zisa has taken in the 15 months since his conviction heralded a sweeping overhaul of the city’s government, which the Zisa family and their political allies had dominated for decades.
Zisa’s attorney, Louis Zayas of North Bergen, could not be reached Monday and city representatives declined to comment, saying they had yet to see the complaint.
The complaint reaches back to a months-long disciplinary procedure against Ferraioli. That episode that touched off a mutiny in the department that Zisa headed for 15 years and has since played a role in several court proceedings involving Zisa’s tenure, including Zisa’s 2012 criminal trial and several of the lawsuits that more than 20 officers have filed against Zisa and the Police Department.
Ferraioli was one of the first to sue, claiming in 2009 that he was one of several officers who were demoted and assigned to undesirable posts after they campaigned against Zisa’s favored candidates in a contested police union election. His case is still pending.
But Zisa’s account portrays Ferraioli as an architect of Zisa’s downfall.
“Officer Ferraioli was part of a rogue group of Hackensack police officers who sought to undermine and unseat Zisa because of his disciplinarian style, by filing baseless criminal and civil accusations of official misconduct,” the complaint says.
Zisa’s complaint picks up the story in January 2010. Ferraioli, then a 21-year-police veteran, was facing disciplinary charges for insubordination, identity theft and misrepresentation for allegedly impersonating a police Internal Affairs captain in an online chat room devoted to heated discussion of the union elections.
During an administrative hearing, the complaint alleges, Ferraioli’s attorney tried to make a back-room deal with the city’s representatives. The attorney allegedly said that, unless the charges against Ferraioli and other members of the police union were dropped, his client would tell the media and county, state and federal law enforcement agencies that Zisa had forced officers to lie in a police report.
Zisa refused to comply with Ferraioli’s demands, the complaint says. Ferraioli was found guilty on the departmental charges and was suspended for six months.
Ferraioli’s attorney is not named in the complaint. Patrick Toscano, the Caldwell-based attorney who represented Ferraioli during the disciplinary hearings, said Monday he had not seen the complaint and could not comment.
Ferraioli could not be reached for comment Monday.
He returned to the department in October 2010, the month Zisa was indicted. He was accused of trying to coerce subordinate officers to file false police reports about a car accident involving Zisa’s girlfriend at the time, who was allegedly driving drunk, and filing a fraudulent insurance claim for more than $11,000 in damages to the SUV she was driving. He was convicted of those charges in May 2012 and was later sentenced to five years in prison. He vowed to appeal.
Zisa alleges that Ferraioli continued to plot against him. In November 2011, the complaint alleges, Ferraioli issued two summonses charging Zisa with activities the former chief describes in the complaint as “quasi-criminal”: failing to observe a stop sign and illegally using a post office box as his address on his driver’s license.
Zisa claims in his complaint that he was in another part of town at the time that Ferraioli claimed in the summons that he ran the stop sign.
The charges were later dismissed, but Ferraioli took pictures of the summonses and circulated them around the Police Department, “in an attempt to humiliate and embarrass Zisa,” the complaint alleges.
Ferraioli resigned from the department in 2011 after pleading guilty of assaulting a Hackensack resident during a police investigation.
Thom Ammirato, a spokesman representing the slate of candidates who swept the May election for City Council on a reform platform, said Monday that he had not seen Zisa’s complaint and could not comment.
As one of its first acts in office, the new council said it would drop a previous policy against settling lawsuits, saying the policy – put in place by Joe Zisa, the former city attorney and the former police chief’s cousin – had been partly responsible for more than $3.6 million in legal fees for police litigation over the last three years.
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