A police officer in Essex County who was fired over a year ago after he filed suit against Caldwell and its police chief alleging his bosses made racist remarks will get his job back, a judge has ruled.
Lt. Michael Geary was terminated by a 4-0 borough council vote in December 2019 after a hearing officer determined he violated departmental policies, rules and regulations.
Before his termination, Geary claimed in a lawsuit that he legally changed his name from Michael Fung when he learned superiors were calling him racist slurs behind his back.
State Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Moore last month reversed the hearing officer’s decision, but upheld two disciplinary charges against Geary and set a 90-day suspension as the penalty.
Geary will also attend a fitness for duty evaluation before he’s allowed to rejoin the borough’s police department, Moore said in his ruling, dated Dec. 22.
Borough attorney Vincent J. Nuzzi told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday the Caldwell council plans to appeal the judge’s decision reinstating Geary.
The judge also dismissed a counterclaim Caldwell had against Geary, and ruled the officer be paid any money he is due from borough.
In a Dec. 21 letter, Geary’s attorney Patrick Toscano demanded $2.5 million from the borough to settle the officer’s lawsuit.
“This demand is separate from and does not include what is legally due and owing to Lt. Geary in (back pay),” Toscano said in the letter.
In a subsequent letter to the borough, Toscano said Geary – who earned $140,000 a year – is owed $105,000 plus benefits and attorney fees.
Toscano said he predicted “almost one year ago to date” that Geary would be reinstated to his position.
“Caldwell’s illegal termination of the lieutenant will go down as one of the biggest mistakes since the Yankees trade of Jay Buhner in 1988,” Toscano said.