• Michelle Douglass

Nepotism, negligence a big problem in Cape Sheriff's Office, lawsuit claims

Updated: Feb 10


(Pictured: Sheriff Gary Schaffer)


A former supervisor in the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office claims that people at the highest levels of county government are putting nepotism ahead of public safety.


A whistleblower lawsuit, filed last month by David Tomkinson, who resigned last March, alleges that county officials repeatedly told him that Louis Taylor had “to be taken care of” despite his poor work performance because he is the brother of county Prosecutor Robert Taylor.


That poor work performance allegedly included letting a house arrest inmate be released to attend a dog show. Now, police consider that inmate a suspect in a shooting that occurred that day, the complaint said.


Louis Taylor, 72, who is the coordinator for the department’s Electronic Monitoring Program and was supervised by Tomkinson, declined to comment on the lawsuit.


“We don’t comment on ongoing litigation,” said attorney Russell Lichtenstein, who is representing the county in this case. “I’m certain we’ll ultimately be successful.”


County Counsel Jim Arsenault called the allegations “serious” and said the county was aware of them before the lawsuit was filed. He said the county looked into the claims but couldn’t substantiate them.


But Tomkinson’s attorney, Michelle J. Douglass, said nobody from the county took action when Tomkinson reported Taylor’s indiscretion many times to various county officials.


“They didn’t look into it,” she said. “They didn’t conduct an investigation.”


Prosecutor Robert Taylor declined to comment on the litigation beyond saying that Tomkinson’s lawsuit “doesn’t have any merit.”


Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton knew about Tomkinson’s concerns and didn’t investigate the situation, the complaint says.


Thornton declined to comment on the matter.


The allegations paint the Sheriff’s Office as an institution racked by nepotism and negligence—problems that Tomkinson, who oversaw the department’s Alternative Incarceration Program, believe may have even led to a shooting last April in the Whitesboro section of Middle Township.


Tomkinson, who had just resigned a month before the shooting, said in the lawsuit that he was contacted by police about the incident in Whitesboro.


The inmate, identified only by the initials D.W. and considered a suspect in the shooting, was allowed by Taylor to attend a dog show that day, according to the complaint.


Attending a dog show is not a valid reason to be released from house arrest, Tomkinson said in court documents.


Sheriff Gary Schaffer, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, is accused of responding to Tomkinson’s concerns by saying that he knew of Taylor’s behavior but that he “owed the prosecutor.”


“The lawsuit is without merit and the county is going to defend it vigorously,” Schaffer said, but he declined to comment further.


In December, Schaffer announced that he would not seek reelection when his term expires at the end of the year.


Tomkinson also claimed Taylor “was out of control” and routinely didn’t follow necessary procedures, including filing daily reports, conducting home inspections and losing applications for house arrest.


Taylor, a former police chief in Avalon, was in poor health and frequently slept on the job, the complaint said.


In addition to the prosecutor, he has a number of relatives who work for the county, including two employees of the Sheriff’s Office and a county corrections officer, Tomkinson said in the complaint.


Taylor worked in the prosecutor’s office before being transferred to the Sheriff’s Office due to concerns about nepotism, the lawsuit claims.


He is set to be paid $60,290.12 in 2017 on a 70-hour work week, according to county documents.


“Apparently, he’s been pushed around,” Douglass said. “I guess they ran out of places to put him.”


The complaint states that Tomkinson resigned because of “physical and psychological illness” due to his belief that he may be held legally liable for Taylor’s mistakes.


“He did not want to resign from his job” and would like to get the position back if possible, Douglass said.


Tomkinson is seeking damages from the county and the Sheriff’s Office, but Douglass said he also wanted to alert the public of the situation and be vindicated for concerns.


“His main goal is to hopefully shed public light on this so a proper investigation is conducted,” Douglass said. “Maybe this will get things shook up so it’s not business as usual.”

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