Montclair, NJ – Two Black Montclair firefighters have filed a lawsuit against the township, two township officials, one former township official and a test preparation vendor, contending that they faced “egregious race discrimination” in the Montclair Fire Department

The suit, filed early Monday morning in Essex County Superior Court, states that the department’s promotion process was rigged to favor white firefighters and to disfavor Acting Battalion Chief and Capt. Steven Marshalleck, Lt. Makkari Sampson and other Black firefighters.

The suit outlines what it calls a four-part scheme that it says was put into motion by the defendants: Montclair Township, Township Manager Timothy Stafford, Fire Chief John Herrmann, former Human Resources Director Sharyn Matthews, Promotional Prep LLC and Michael Terpak.

The suit describes the four parts this way:

  • “The Montclair defendants replaced the existing promotional process with one that diminished the value of seniority – a factor that favored Black firefighters.”
  • “The Montclair defendants added a highly subjective job performance evaluation section to the promotion process, which permitted them, having exclusive control over the scoring of that section, to favor white firefighters over their Black counterparts.”
  • “The Montclair defendants scored the disciplinary section of the examination in violation of their own rubric to disfavor plaintiffs, who were penalized for minor infractions while white firefighters who had engaged in far more serious and more recent misconduct were not penalized.”
  • “The Montclair defendants conspired with defendant Promotional Prep and its owner, defendant Terpak, to provide test preparation services only to white firefighters preparing for promotional examinations, while also increasing the impact of the written test by raising the threshold required to move forward to subsequent sections of the exams.

As a result, the lawsuit states, Marshalleck, Sampson and other Black firefighters “are lower on the promotional list than they would have been absent discrimination and will be promoted, if at all, later than they should have been.”

Continue reading on Montclair Local.

20 replies on “Two Black Firefighters Sue Montclair and Officials Citing ‘Egregious Race Discrimination’”

  1. This is one of those rare occasions where I understand what Frank is saying and what he is saying is actually funny, lol!

  2. Calvin, have you had a chance to see the actual court filing yet? I’m not a lawyer, but this looks like serious shit.

  3. In light of all else going on at 205 Claremont Avenue at the moment, if not so pathetically sad and infuriating, it would somehow be perversely humorous.

  4. It’s serious, all right. Horrible PR for Spiller. I don’t understand why he contracted that ‘clean’ O’Toole report in the first place. The whole thing was ugly to begin with, and O’Toole report made it uglier yet.

    Funny thing is, if Spiller were smart, he would have fashioned himself as a “civil rights hero” by putting himself in front of this whole mess and cleaning it. After all, it wasn’t his mess to begin with – it was one made by Stafford and Herrmann. Instead, he tried to protect those two and sweep the whole thing under the carpet. Clearly, it didn’t work. I’m curious what Honorable Annette Scoca will think of all this.

  5. I’m sorry, but I’m must a layperson when it comes to the law. I read there was an extensive conspiracy to defraud alleged in the complaint. To me, that sounds like a criminal case. So I am a little bewildered how one settles a criminal complaint locally? Can we settle criminal complaints at the Ward level now. Maybe we can settle criminal complaints in an office at 205.

    I know we must be doing the right thing here because there are nothing but lawyers being paid as far as one’s eye can see. And these lawyers double as…what do they call it? Officers of the court? Never understood that expression. Is it like a club?

  6. For the cost of every hour we are paying Culturupt to conduct a drop-in climate assessment, we could be getting 2 hours of legal representation. It’s all about those financial priorities this month. We have to pay for the Fire Dept & that Law Dept. And don’t forget our Liability Insurance Carrier. ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’, as the Aging In Mtc people like to say

  7. When the MO of your Mayor and most other Councilors here is not really to lead but instead to more safely “react” to the actions of others after, then even try to take credit for those actions sometimes…or instead, try to “marry” the views of others rather than lead and direct, as Sean Spiller himself says publicly he does…then you end up with legislators who bring no real guiding philosophy to the table. Other than just a “Being There” mindset. And the results are just these kinds of public imbroglios and blow-ups.

    I suggest it comes from psychological behavior of needing to cover things up, a head in the sand, or act late to table only under crisis mindset to preserve the seat as the main goal…sometimes with no-reaction even until catastrophe …while letting others hang in the wind if they can and used for blame. All done instead of trying to do the right thing from the start which could be risky. A wrong choice made.

    Regardless, these are the actions of individuals with no real guiding principles — no inner guideposts to stop the madness upfront when seen. So you end up with this discrimination lawsuit, or the Glen Ridge fire contract…or a Manager like Tim Stafford allowed to operate freely, never called on the carpet. Really no employee here even called on the carpet by the Council publicly for non-deliverables going off the rails. Which the Council could do in open session legally to force accountability by the Administration. Forgetting the BS town attorney go to response that “this is a personnel matter. Even David Placek’s Council driven Lackawanna Plan should be seen in this psychological light.

    Again reactive by Councilors…with no philosophy or objectives defined first through public debate, then acted on. Because again, the inner political behavior of most seeking office is not to be thoughtful legislators driven by policy needs (only 10% of people serving as legislators want this says one older Duke University poly sci study). Most running for office instead were considered “Advertisers”…some more driven by personal narcissism and self aggrandizement. Others, by feelings of inadequacy in their personal or professional lives. Then feeling like the ‘big shot and powerful’ to serve as decision-makers. So people with real power and money now seek them out and come calling for favors.

    All these political behaviors and typologies can be seen here…

  8. I know recall has been mentioned in passing on these message board, but I am really surprised that a petition is not circulating at this time. Heck there have been bumper stickers for a couple of years now, but no actual petition that I know of.

  9. Huh? That was 6 months ago! Luckily, cooler heads prevailed as they foresaw what we are seeing today: ratings through the roof!

    Aside from MSNBC’s Mourning Joe, TV 34 and YouTube/Montclair are the highest ranked live telecasts in the greater West Essex market. We have more viewers from neighboring towns than Montclair tuning in to our Council’s meetings. The Colbert Show probably is a bit envious of what we have accomplished without a marketing budget, bare-bones production funds, and no band. We are even competitive in overall Essex market because the Courts tune in to see what is coming down the pipeline to them. We have a feeding frenzy by the NJ Bar members which gives us a decent showing in other markets like Morristown &

    As they say, any PR is good PR.

  10. Proposed headline for the press: Montclair’s Missing Mayor. Not that he contributes anything beyond pablum and bromides, but still. I mean, was he in an accident or something? Broke a leg maybe? Just how inconsequential is Montclair to its Mayor?

    Parenthetically, should he make it to the next council meeting, I gather he will be recusing himself from discussion and vote on all items that were on first reading last night. He used this absurd argument to keep his hands clean with regard to the indemnification ordinance – while conflating abstention with recusal. This is from a guy who has sat on that damn dais for 11 years. I know it’s too late for a recall but May 2024 can’t come soon enough.

  11. Ok seniors. You requested Council mtgs start earlier to facilitate your civic participation. Does 10am Friday work for you?

  12. @Wilhelm,

    I thought the same thing concerning that bizarre refusal. Looked contrived. Odd that the others (other than Russo) put up with it like sheep. I find it frustrating to watch our Mayor play weird games but, at the same time, I learned to be patient. In the end, most of his ‘chickens’ come home to roost. He reaps what he sows. As Mikah Rasmussen of Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics said last year (paraphrasing) “he [Spiller] will have to have answers to all these questions”.

  13. The timing of Stafford’s public hearing made me laugh. Friday morning, 10AM. I guess Sunday afternoon was not an option? These guys are so see-through it’s painful to watch. If you’re gonna play games, at least be more subtle about it. We need a new crew. And a new town attorney. What a sorry mess.

  14. Council members: I will put a fine point on it for you. If you want to foster civic participation, you ought to schedule public meetings during times when you expect most people can participate. Problem is, you do NOT want us to participate. That’s one of the reasons why you must go. Lack of leadership and incompetence are the other chief reasons.

  15. Scriberman,

    Amen. They really wanted to keep it quiet. Didn’t work. Too many people are paying attention to their shenanigans now.

    Clearly, Stafford was instrumental in rigging the fire promotion exam. I get a sense that he and Herrmann are tight. Don’t they both live in Cedar Grove? O’Toole Scrivo is also located in Cedar Grove. Must be a coincidence.

    I hope Eileen Birmingham is reading it. I’m told she is an MD but I’m thinking she has totally missed her calling as a Sherlock Holmes. I mean it without sarcasm.

  16. I can’t help but see the irony. In 1966,the Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered desegregation of Montclair schools. By 2023, the Fire Chief is being sued over race segregation in Montclair Fire Department. Shockingly, while white firemen luxuriate in elegant and comfortably equipped Stations #1 and #2, black firefighters work in squalor and disrepair at Station#3 in the fourth ward where the majority of Montclair’s black population lives. It’s a ‘burning’ issue. Herrmann must go. It’s time, John!

  17. Pat,

    Seriously? Do your homework before you post this kind of really low-quality stuff.

  18. Wow, Frank – this is gratuitous criticism without any justification. A little decorum, please.

    Well, perhaps Frank thinks “high quality” content must be impossible to understand and/or devoid of any discernible point.

    I found Pat’s comment thought-provoking. It also made me sad. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Don’t recall who said it originally and in what context, but it rings painfully true in this instance.

Comments are closed.