HACKENSACK, NJ – Former city police chief Charles “Ken” Zisa has filed a lawsuit accusing a former colleague of trying to bully him into dropping a disciplinary charge against him, then the attempts had been thwarted.
The eight-page suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark, claims Officer Anthony Ferraioli — who was police union president at the end of Zisa’s 15-year tenure as chief — violated Zisa’s civil rights by targeting him and filing falsified reports in hopes of ringing him up on criminal charges.
Zisa is currently on house arrest as he awaits an appeal of his convictions on official misconduct and insurance fraud charges. If they are not overturned, he faces five years in prison.
The suit characterizes Ferraioli as a member of a “rogue group of officers” who collectively “sought to undermine and unseat Zisa because of his disciplinarian style, by filing baseless criminal and civil accusations of official misconduct.”
The alleged retaliation began when Zisa suspended Ferraioli for six months for identity theft, misrepresentation and insubordination, the filing claims.
That disciplinary measure marked the beginning of an extraordinarily litigious period in the department’s history, with Ferraioli and more than 20 other officers filing suit against Zisa, other members of the police administration and the city.
Many claimed that they were subjected to various discipline and demotions if they supported candidates for the police union that the administration opposed. The city has since settled the majority of the lawsuits.
The lawsuit claims that Ferraioli threatened Zisa after the six-month suspension was upheld, threatening to tell the media and other law enforcement agencies that he and other officers had been forced to lie in reports.
When Ferraioli returned from suspension, he then allegedly “plotted to retaliate against Zisa” by issuing him summonses for failing to stop at a stop sign and for listing a post office box as his address on his drivers’ license.
Zisa and his attorney, Louis A. Zayas of North Bergen, say records show that Zisa was voting at a local firehouse at the time Ferraioli says he saw him commit the traffic violation in October 2010.
In an email, Zayas also said he has police activity reports that show Ferraioli was out of town on an unrelated police matter at the time.
The suit also names the city as a defendant, claiming it adopted “an unwritten policy or widespread custom or practice of tolerating civil rights abuses by police officers, including but not limited to, the filing of false and misleading police reports, fabrication of perjured testimony, and abuse of process” following Zisa’s suspension as chief in April 2010.
Neither Ferraioli or the city has offered comment on the allegations.