LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Police Chief Richard Buzby has fired back at township code enforcement officer Michael Fromosky, the controversial in-law of Freeholder Jack Kelly who earlier this year filed a lawsuit against Buzby, along with the Township of Little Egg Harbor and other named township officials. Buzby hit back by retaining outside counsel and filing an 8-count counterclaim in response to Fromosky’s complaint from earlier this year.
Police Chief Richard Buzby has lawyered up, and is being represented by attorney Robert Baxter (who is married to an Ocean County judge), who was appointed by the county Joint Insurance Fund (JIF) to defend Buzby against Fromosky’s lawsuit, as well as Toms River attorney John Novak, who is an elected official in Barnegat. Novak is representing Buzby on his third party complaint and counterclaim, filed in response to the Fromosky litigation.
The 40-page answer, counterclaim and third party complaint filed on behalf of Buzby makes new allegations against Fromosky, along with GOP Committeemen John Kehm and Ray Gormley. Buzby’s counterclaim is also shedding some light on the tangled web of players behind Ocean County’s levers of political power, and how they play a role in doling out patronage jobs in municipal government.
Citing numerous incidents, attorneys for Chief Buzby have argued in court papers that the police chief faced retaliation from Fromosky, who was allegedly motivated by a belief that Buzby played a role in seeing him fail to obtain a position at the Ocean County Jail, despite the help Fromosky received from his in-law, Freeholder John P. “Jack” Kelly. In addition to formally denying allegations made against him in Fromosky’s lawsuit, Buzby’s counterclaim includes counts against Fromosky, Gormley, Kehm and the Township of Little Egg Harbor for, among other things, slander, malicious abuse of process, gross negligence and alleged violations of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act and Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
Novak: Fromosky Undermined Buzby’s Authority, Created “Atmosphere Of Dysfunction”
Beginning in 2012, Fromosky “commenced to engage in a pattern and practice of undermining the authority, decision and rights of the Chief of Police, Richard Buzby, by tortiously interfering with the police operations designed to contrive an atmosphere of dysfunction,” Novak wrote in court documents, in which he provided a narrative that detailed years of issues between Buzby and Fromosky.
Novak added that the dysfunction – allegedly caused by Fromosky – resulted in officers of the department becoming “antagonistic” to the chief of police, citing comments made by Fromosky to other employees and numerous grievances filed by the parties in the course of their employment with the township.
Novak’s counterclaim alleges that Fromosky, Kehm and Gormley conspired to have both Loesch and Buzby removed from their positions as result of the two blowing the whistle on illegal activity, and the fact that the outside counsel hired by the township to investigate allegations against the two concluded that a cell phone reimbursement given to Buzby was proper.
Fromosky Sought 50% Salary Increase From Little Egg Harbor After Jail Job Derailed
Another previously undisclosed piece of information contained in court documents filed in the case revealed an apparent effort by Fromosky to secure a pay raise In March of 2015, Fromosky is alleged to have approached township administrator Garrett Loesch about returning to work as an assistant business administrator, but Fromosky demanded an increase in salary of “…more than 50% higher than when he tendered his resignation a mere few weeks earlier.”
Fromosky, court documents filed by attorney John Novak allege, demanded a salary of $90,000 per year from Loesch and the township committee, a significant jump from the nearly $57,000 in pay he took home the previous year.
When Fromosky was first hired as an assistant business administrator for the township in 2012, his salary was $43,000 per year, according to court documents. “During the course of his employment with LEHT, Fromosky’s salary was supplemented with additional stipends of $5,000 and of $7,500 and with annual contractual increases,” the counterclaim read.
Little Egg Officials Held 2015 Meeting At Gilmore Offices To Arrange Rehiring Of Fromosky Behind Closed Doors
The counterclaim also alleges that it took a little political grease from none other than George Gilmore – the principal of the law firm hired to provide legal representation to the township – to ensure that Fromosky was hired back to his previous position after missing out on an Ocean County patronage job.
“On or about April 8, 2015, the Committee met at the offices of George Gilmore to arrange the re-hiring of Fromosky as an employee of Little Egg Harbor Township as a Code Enforcement Officer with an annual salary of $55,000,” Novak wrote in court papers.
Shortly after the closed-door meeting at Gilmore’s office, Fromosky took the code enforcement job after receiving an offer of employment from the township.
Gilmore: Gormley and Kehm “Were Looking To Get Even”
In support of the counterclaim’s allegations of retaliation, Novak wrote that in August of 2015, Buzby made the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office aware that George Gilmore said to then-committeeman Arthur Midgley and Loesch while in another meeting at the Gilmore law offices that Gormley and Kehm managed to obtain a copy of Buzby’s letter to the prosecutor’s office detailing allegations against the two from March of that year. During the meeting, Gilmore said that the two elected officials “were looking to get even,” according to the counterclaim.
Gilmore, for his part, has continued to draw scrutiny from both the FBI and IRS throughout 2017 as he remains under criminal investigation, with a flurry of subpoenas served on individuals connected to the influential county Republican chairman.
Loesch: Kehm Collected FEMA Rental Assistance While Living At Same Property He Said He Was Displaced From
More retaliation came from Kehm after Loesch reported him to the police department for allegedly collecting rental assistance he wasn’t entitled to, according to Novak’s account of the events.
In May of 2014, Loesch notified the township police department that “…he believed Kehm may have been improperly collecting FEMA rental assistance while remaining in the same home he claimed to be displaced from,” according to the counterclaim.
Attorney: Gormley Told Kehm He Was Target Of Investigation
Kehm was subsequently informed of the probe by his running mate, Ray Gormley, according to the counterclaim.
“Following Loesch’s report, Police Chief Buzby discussed the allegation with Raymond Gormley who, therefater, inappropriately, illegally and unlawfully discussed to Kehm that he was the target of any investigation.”
Novak claimed in court filings that once Kehm became aware that he was being investigated, he began retaliation against Loesch, Buzby and then-DPW superintendent Patrick Donnelly.
“As a result of the disclosure by Gormley to Kehm that Kehm was the target of an investigation, Kehm commenced to engage in retaliatory conduct against Loesch, Buzby and Superintendent Donnelly in violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.”
The counterclaim exhaustively lists statements made by Fromosky that were purportedly slanderous, as well as actions alleged to have been taken by Gormley, Kehm and Fromosky as a part of a conspiracy to remove him from his position and deprive him of due process in connection with grievances and other incidents described in court documents.