CREST HAVEN – According to former Cape May County Sheriff’s Department employee David Tomkinson, nepotism in the county Sheriff Department’s S.L.A.P. (Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program) has created a serious threat to the safety of the public.
Tomkinson, a former Middle Township police lieutenant, and a 16-year civilian employee of the Cape May County Sheriff’s Department, has filed suit under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) against the county, Sheriff Gary Schaffer and “Jane-John Does.”
He has demanded a trial by jury “on all of the triable issues” of the complaint. Tomkinson believes he was forced to resign Mach 1, 2016 from his position due to the “intolerable” and potentially dangerous conditions he claims resulted from favoritism shown to Louis Taylor Jr. by the leadership of the Sheriff’s office.
Tomkinson’s suit alleges that Taylor, 72, who is the brother of Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor, and is a retired Avalon chief of police, has been protected and “taken care of” by the Sheriffs’ Department despite his record of poor performance and neglect. The 2017 county payroll shows Louis E. Taylor Jr. as a 70-hour per regular pay period employee whose title is to be determined and whose salary is $60,290 annually.
According to the complaint filed Jan. 11, 2017, Louis Taylor, as supervisor of the Alternative Incarceration Program (AIP), and a subordinate of Tomkinson, “routinely allowed inmates to travel out of state and out of the restricted and prescribed special zones in violation of policy, guidelines, and law.” Tomkinson stated he repeatedly admonished Taylor for his failures and tried to ensure that relevant procedures were followed, to no avail. Tomkinson added that Taylor’s refusal or inability to follow procedures also allowed an inmate, supposedly under house arrest, to become involved in a shooting after Taylor neglected to carry out his monitoring responsibilities under the AIP.
The complaint reads in part: “Plaintiff seeks damages to vindicate his rights under the laws and remedy the egregious loss and damages inflicted upon him by Defendants, including, but not necessarily limited to compensatory damages, emotional distress, bodily harm and injury, physical illness, economic damages, injunctive and equitable relief, every day and daily stress caused by Defendants’ illegal acts, punitive damages and any other damages the Court deems fair and just.”
Tomkinson described the AIP program as one designed to permit selected offenders to remain at home, under strict electronic supervision, as long as they are not accused of crimes of violence, sexual offenses, or suffer from mental impairment.
Tomkinson described himself as functioning “basically as a civilian Corrections Officer,” charged with maintaining close supervision over those permitted to participate in the home monitoring (house arrest) program.
Taylor was assigned to personally supervise that program under Tomkinson’s supervision.
Standard Operating Procedure (No. 1440) governs the administration of the home monitoring program. It requires that inmates be supervised through home visits and by programming special “zones” into the device worn by inmates that identify approved locations via GPS technology.
An alarm is activated whenever the wearer ventures outside of those approved zones.
Tomkinson contends that Taylor often failed to program those zones into monitoring devices and permitted inmates to violate procedures without taking corrective action.
Tomkinson also alleges that Taylor did not conduct proper home visits as required; according to Tomkinson, these lapses caused him to experience “tremendous personal worry and serious concern for public safety.”
Tomkinson believes that during the period when Taylor was in charge of AIP, he had to do Taylor’s job, as well as his own for fear that mistakes would result in someone getting hurt on the street.
“It was a constant battle, everyday, to get him to do his job,” Tomkinson stated. Tomkinson felt frustrated because, “I was his boss in name only,” referring to his lack of actual supervisory control over Taylor caused by his superior’s hands-off attitude.
Tomkinson alleges that the constant stress of being held responsible for Taylor’s failures caused such strain on him personally that he repeatedly informed his supervisors, including Sheriff Gary Schaffer, Under Sheriff John Maher, and Warden Donald Lombardo that “something needed to be done” or “public safety would be at risk.” Tomkinson stated he was told by his superiors that “it cannot happen, we have to take care of the man” (Taylor).
According to Tomkinson, the continuing lack of support from his superiors caused him to finally resign against his will in March 2016.
Tomkinson’s attorney, Michelle J. Douglass of Somers Point, characterized his resignation as a “constructive discharge” from his position, even though he was not technically fired by anyone. Tomkinson stated that he never wanted to leave his position, but felt, for his health, he must resign after being rebuffed by his superiors.
Douglass added that the “gist of the suit is the message that nepotism has created a public safety issue that deserves to be somehow investigated; at least in that department.” Although no rules exist that prevent nepotism in county government, she feels that nepotism has “clouded over” normal rules and procedures that should be designed to protect the public.
For his part, Tomkinson wants this lawsuit to “set things right, to protect the public.”
“I have been in public safety in Cape May County for 16 years, but I have never seen anything like that before” he stressed. “I want the system cleaned up, and yes, if that happened, I would love to return to work. I care about the people of this county, and I don’t want to stop working.”
The Herald contacted County Prosecutor Robert Taylor for a comment on the suit involving his brother, Louis. Taylor stated that he was aware of the suit but that it has no merit.
The Herald contacted Sheriff Gary Schaffer’s office for a response; the sheriff referred the Herald to Cape May County Counel James Arsenault who stated that he is aware of the allegations and is preparing a vigorous defense against the allegations.