Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lawyer in Police Settlement Blasts Officials

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lawyer in Police Settlement Blasts Officials

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK -- The attorney who negotiated a $2.48 million settlement for a police officer who complained of a pattern of harassment lashed out Wednesday at the law enforcement officials he said had failed to protect her.

Alessandra Viola's claims -- including an allegation that she was hit with criminal and disciplinary charges after she broke off a two- year relationship with then-Deputy Chief Frank Zisa Jr., the brother of the powerful chief, Ken Zisa -- were detailed in a letter sent to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and the state Attorney General's Office months before she filed her 2009 lawsuit, her lawyer said.

"They never contacted us," attorney Neil Mullin said. "They didn't lift a finger to help my client. That's wrong."

The settlement, first reported by The Record on Tuesday, is the largest by far of the 14 settlements resulting from lawsuits linked to the final years of Ken Zisa's time as chief, according to numbers provided by City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono. Most of the suits were filed by more than 20 current and former police officers.

Ken Zisa was convicted of official misconduct and insurance fraud in May.

Mullin said he could not discuss the monetary aspects of the settlement, but he said his client's claims to damages would have been smaller if she had received the help she sought.

"The fact that a woman is saying, 'I'm being harassed because of the chief's brother,' that didn't get their attention," Mullin said. "When he [Ken Zisa] was defrauding an insurance company for a couple thousand dollars, that's when they interceded."

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said, however, that his office was cleared of any responsibility in the case, when an appellate court dismissed Viola's claims against the prosecutor and the county. A second judge ordered her to reimburse the county for $128,000 for attorneys' fees accrued during the case. …

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