Vineland mayor must refrain from attempting to reinstate ex-cop, judge orders

| Oct 8, 2014 | Firm News |

Gami Cruz

Gamaliel “Gami” Cruz (Courtesy of NBC40)

VINELAND — Mayor Ruben Bermudez cannot do anything further to reinstate ex-police officer Gamaliel “Gami” Cruz until after appearing in court next month, according to an order issued Tuesday by a Gloucester County Superior Court judge.

The order is in response to a lawsuit filed by Vineland City Council against Bermudez and Cruz. City Council President Anthony Fanucci signed the lawsuit on Sept. 30.

Cruz is a former Vineland detective terminated in 2012 after allegedly lying to a judge about the identity of a confidential informant in order to acquire a search warrant.

Council is requesting that Bermudez refrains further action in attempting to reinstate Cruz because they have allegedly known each other since childhood.

“Without the above restraints, [Vineland City Council] and the citizens of Vineland, will suffer irreparable harm,” the lawsuit states.

The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office will not use Cruz’s testimony in any criminal matters, according to the lawsuit, and, if reinstated, Cruz will be earning an officer’s salary of $90,000 without being able to perform police duties.

“Police morale, the city’s and the police department’s image and more importantly, the effective operation of the police department and the justice system would be irreparably impaired if [Cruz] is reinstated,” the lawsuit states.

Furthermore, the mayor’s attempts to reinstate Cruz are contrary to the Local Government Ethics Law because of his alleged conflict of interest, the lawsuit argues.

A message left at Bermudez’s office for comment Wednesday afternoon was not returned.

Cruz allegedly lied to a judge over the telephone in pursuit of a search warrant on Aug. 3, 2010 while he was a detective in the Vineland Police Department.

The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office informed the police department about Cruz’s false testimony on Nov. 8, 2010 and the prosecutor’s office ended up throwing out 38 cases because Cruz signed a search warrant for those cases, according to previous reports.

On March 14, 2011, Cruz was suspended from duty and issued a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action, which charged him for violating police rules.

City officials issued Cruz a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action on May 25, 2012 and terminated his employment. Cruz filed an appeal shortly afterward.

An administrative appeal hearing for Cruz began last February and was continuing until Cruz dropped his appeal on June 4.

He dropped the appeal after Bermudez unilaterally signed an amended Final Notice of Disciplinary Action on May 21 that dismissed the charges against him.

“In advancing his conflicted interests, it is believed that Mayor Bermudez met independently with Cruz and/or Cruz’s attorney to discuss the dismissal of all charges against Cruz, and that Mayor Bermudez met with legal counsel for Cruz without the city’s attorney being present,” the lawsuit states.

City council voted against a resolution on June 10 about the mayor’s agreement with Cruz and Cruz filed a lawsuit against the city on June 25 because he has not been reinstated after Bermudez dropped the charges against him.

City council filed the lawsuit against Bermudez and Cruz on Oct. 1 and Gloucester County Superior Court Judge Anne McDonnell issued an order on Oct. 7 that Bermudez cannot work further toward reinstating Cruz until after appearing in court.

Any further administrative involvement in the Cruz situation must be handled by the business administrator in the interim, according to the order.

Bermudez, Cruz and city council are scheduled to appear before McDonnell on Nov. 5 in Woodbury.

William Harla of the Teaneck-based lawfirm Decotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole, LLP is representing city council.

Don E. Woods may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @donewoods1. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.