The West Wildwood police chief has been awarded $1.165 million in her whistleblower suit against the Jersey Shore town.
Jacquelyn Ferentz said then-mayor Herbert Frederick repeatedly overstepped his authority by interfering in police business before and after she became acting chief in 2008. She accused the mayor of committing several illegal acts along the way.
A jury sitting in Cape May County reached the verdict last week, according to Ferentz’s lawyer Michelle Douglass.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Frederick said he was previously dropped from the lawsuit.
“I didn’t know there was an active lawsuit,” he said. “I’ve never given a deposition. I was never questioned.”
Among Ferederick’s indiscretions, according to court papers, were giving orders directly to police officers to handle civilian complaints without Ferentz’s knowledge.
In May 2008, Frederick called the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate when a West Wildwood police officer gave him a warning for a non-moving violation, the suit says.
Elected mayor in June of that year, Frederick quickly began interjecting himself into the police’s affairs, according to the suit.
Frederick also fired a police officer who earlier gave him a summons for failure to provide an insurance card and provide proof of an insurance, the lawsuit said. The cop ticketed Frederick after he allegedly struck a parked car that belonged to the campaign manager of a political opponent, the lawsuit said.
Then in July, Frederick showed up in municipal court and used his influence to get a summons against a friend dismissed, the lawsuit said.
Ferentz, who took over the day-to-day operations of the department when Frederick forced Chief Alan Fox to take a leave of absence later that summer, reported the mayor’s actions to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the state Attorney General’s office.
In response, Frederick appointed a public safety director to run the police department’s day-to-day operations, effectively taking away Ferentz’s power and responsibilities.
Ferentz was later fired but re-instated and promoted to chief in 2012.
Ferentz, who turns 48 this year, was hired by West Wildwood in 2005, earning a promotion to lieutenant in 2005. She is paid $82,846 per year to lead the nine-member police force in a town of fewer than 600 residents, according to public records.
Frederick, now 67, is a retired Wildwood school principal who collects a monthly pension of $5,093.91. His phone number was unlisted.