Toms River School Employee Claims Ritacco Girlfriend Settlement Violated His Civil Rights

TOMS RIVER – Peter Brattan, a Toms River Schools employee named in a lawsuit and settlement documents previously made public in the fall of 2016, has filed a lawsuit of his own against the board of education over the settlement. Brattan’s attorney claims in court documents that the school board deprived his client of his constitutionally protected rights by settling a lawsuit filed by former Ritacco paramour Donna Mansfield without consulting him or allowing him to assert any claims.

Despite being sentenced to federal prison slightly over 4 years ago for his role in an illegal insurance kickback scheme, former Toms River school superintendent Mike Ritacco’s legacy is still costing taxpayers – indirectly at least.

Toms River Schools (OCP File Photo)

Now, a school employee named in a settled lawsuit originally filed by Ritacco’s past paramour, Donna Mansfield, claims in court filings that he was deprived of his constitutionally protected civil rights by not being consulted by school board officials about that lawsuit’s settlement agreement, to which he is now bound.

Brattan’s lawyer, Brick’s Donald Burke, claims in court documents that the board of education violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal statute that provides recourse for violations of constitutional rights under color of law, pattern or practice, in addition to the New Jersey Civil Rights Act by settling the lawsuit. That suit was originally filed Donna Mansfield, a Toms River school employee who had an affair with Ritacco before he was sent to prison.

“Unfavorable Light”

Burke claims that the “widely disseminated” settlement agreement, which was first released to the public by government transparency expert John Paff and later published in full in a previous article here, cast his client, Mr. Brattan “…in an unfavorable light due to the allegations of Donna Mansfield against him and the settlement agreed to by the [board of education].”

He claims that confidentiality provisions contained within the settlement bar his client from being able to speak out about the settlement or any of the claims made against him in Ms. Mansfield’s lawsuit.

“Plaintiff Peter Brattan was and continues to be unable to speak out in his own defense because to do so would violate the provisions of the confidentiality agreement above as to which he was not consulted nor did he authorize,” the complaint filed in Ocean County Superior Court claimed.

Mansfield’s lawsuit claimed that while serving has her supervisor, Brattan allegedly sexually harassed her and tried to get her to sign off on fraudulent vouchers. Mansfield’s federal case claimed that Brattan said “I am going to bust your balls every day until you leave” after Mansfield reported him to her union, among other things. The settlement agreement saw her receive a sum of money close to $150,000.

Brattan’s lawyer categorized Mansfield’s accusations as “spurious” and that the actions of the Toms River School Board in handling the settlement have affected Brattan’s work, family & social relationships, in addition to causing his client “stress and mental anguish.”

As a result, the attorney is seeking compensatory and punitive damages against the Toms River Board of Education in connection with their settlement of the Mansfield lawsuit for the “conscious and reckless disregard for the welfare, interest and rights” of Brattan.

School Attorney: No “Factual Or Legal Basis” For Brattan’s Lawsuit

In response to the complaint, the school board filed a motion seeking dismissal of Brattan’s suit. Valter Must, of the Carluccio Leone et al. firm claimed in a brief that Brattan’s lawsuit failed to state a valid legal claim upon which relief can be granted by the court, according to documents.

“No matter how generously or indulgently the Complaint, the exhibits referenced in the Complaint, and matters of public record are scrutinized here, the inescapable conclusion is that Brattan simply does not describe a factual or legal basis for finding the School Board liable for a purported violation of his Constitutional rights based on the way the School Board ‘handled and settled’ a lawsuit in which they were named as a co-defendant and represented by counsel,” Marguerite Kneisser of the Carluccio firm wrote in a legal brief submitted on behalf of the school board.

In a reply letter to Judge Craig Wellerson, P.J.Civ. P., Must added “The plaintiff argues, without any supporting law or logic, that somehow the defendants breached some unarticulated duty to insure that the settlement was entered within the authority given by the plaintiff.”

State court records indicated that the next court date in this litigation will be held on February 17th, 2017, which follows numerous adjournments granted to past court dates in this matter.

TAKE NOTICE: While we would normally publish the court documents in full in this spot, last time we did that for another, unrelated lawsuit, another publication used the documents to write an article without rightfully crediting OCP as the source of the documents. I am not going to do the APP’s work for them, so this website is not always going to publish full court documents, as in this instance.

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Gavin Rozzi

Gavin Rozzi

Gavin Rozzi is the editor of Ocean County Politics and a lifelong Ocean County resident, residing in Lacey Township. Gavin's work centers on the intersection of money and politics in Ocean County, with a focus on public corruption. He can be reached via email at editor@politicsoc.com or via phone at (848)-667-0840 or on encrypted phone / text app Signal.

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