Former Port Authority Official Jerry Speziale Sues Agency, Alleges Retaliation Over Whistleblowing
NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former Port Authority official claims in a lawsuit he was hired to uncover corruption and wasteful spending in the agency — and then when he did, his superiors retaliated against him.
Jerry Speziale, a well-known former Passaic County sheriff who was hired to be the agency’s No. 2 two police official, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Newark. He claims he was offered a position by Port Authority official David Wildstein as deputy police superintendent, with a mandate to find violations in the 1,700-member police department.
Speziale claims after he reported problems to his bosses, he was denied security credentials for Port Authority facilities, rendering him unable to respond to an emergency unless he was escorted; had his work vehicle taken away; was denied medical leave benefits for his terminally ill wife and prevented from traveling with her to Texas for treatment; had his Facebook account hacked and was subjected to “daily harassment, intimidation and demeaning conduct.”
Wildstein, the Port Authority’s director of interstate capital projects, resigned last year in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
The suit alleges violation of state whistleblower protections, creation of a hostile work environment and other claims. It seeks unspecified compensatory damages including back pay and future pay.
Speziale resigned from the $198,000 position last year to become police chief in the town of Prichard, Ala. A message left for him there was not returned Wednesday. A Port Authority spokesman declined to comment.
Speziale formerly worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the NYPD, alongside former police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. His tenure as sheriff, a job he was first elected to in 2001, helped burnish his reputation as a powerful Democratic fundraiser and colorful figure who sometimes got personally involved in apprehending suspects. He sold the movie rights to his memoir and acted in the 2009 movie “Brooklyn’s Finest” with Richard Gere and Wesley Snipes.
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