Exec minutes provide few details on settlement

With no public comments from any parties involved in the settlement and release agreement with the former city administrator, we turn to the minutes of two executive sessions last month that led to the deal.

City Council apparently chose a $163,000 settlement as the more “cost-effective alternative” to two lawsuits threatened by the former city administrator’s attorney.

The governing body met for nearly two hours over the course of two executive sessions on Dec. 4 (.pdf) and Dec. 10 (.pdf), according to minutes now available on the city’s website.

Attorneys Jon Inglesino and Denis Driscoll of the Parsippany law firm of Ingelsino, Pearlman, Wyciskala & Taylor were present at the Dec. 4 meeting to explain a proposed settlement with the city administrator, according to the minutes. Ingelsino was retained by Mayor Rick Proctor as special counsel to investigate a dispute over vacation days that Pelissier took beginning in 2011 as well as his work as redevelopment director. He recommended a settlement and release agreement as a “cost-effective alternative” to two lawsuits that Pelissier’s attorney indicated she would file if an agreement was not agreed upon by all parties.

At the Dec. 10 executive session, Pelissier’s attorney, D. Gayle Loftis, informed the governing body that she had prepared a draft complaint to be filed in State Superior Court if the settlement that the council was voting on that night was not approved. She said Pelissier “was a victim of retaliation” by the mayor after he filed the complaint, which was in response to allegedly being pressured by Proctor to hire his wife as health officer.

Inglesino presented two memos — one to the mayor dated May 12 and another dated Dec. 4 to the mayor and City Council — that were not a public record under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) but subject to attorney-client privilege. Whatever legal fees Proctor’s attorney is pursuing are “completely unrelated to this individual matter” involving Pelissier, Ingelsino told the governing body.

The council approved a $163,333 settlement with the Peter Pelissier, who stepped down as city administrator in mid-December but remains as director of the Redevelopment Agency. Under terms of the agreement, Pelissier is to receive the second of two $81,672 payments at the end of this month.

Governing bodies are allowed to go into executive session for matters pertaining to legal or personnel. Minutes of those meetings generally are released once the issue is resolved, such as a lawsuit or other dispute.