UPDATE: Embattled Morristown Zoning Officer to Resign
John Fugger's resignation due to eligibility for pension, not because of charges he's facing, attorney says.
Morristown Zoning Board Officer John Fugger, accused in October of harassing a female employee, has announced his resignation from his $83,469 a year job with the town effective March 9, his attorney said Tuesday.
Peter Gilbreth, Fugger's attorney, said his client planned to retire regardless of the pending criminal complaints levied against him by a female town employee, as his 25th anniversary with the town is March 1, qualifying Fugger for his pension. He also is entitled to compensation for unused sick days and vacation time, of which "he has accumulated many," Gilbreth said.
Fugger was suspended without pay from his job as the town's zoning officer in October after a female employee filed a complaint stating he had made unwanted calls to her after hours, despite being told to stop.
"He gave the letter effective March 9 that he would be resigning," Gibreth said. "We worked out a final settlement because he's been there 25 years."
Gilbreth said the resignation has nothing to do with the pending criminal charge of harassment, which the attorney said carries only a maximum fine of $500 were Fugger found guilty.
"They are apples and oranges," Gilbreth said, comparing Fugger's "petty disorderly persons offense" to other violations like jaywalking.
"It's the least serious kind of violation of law you can have short of a town ordinance like not returning a library book or turning your dog loose," he said.
Fugger has not been named in any civil lawsuits related to the incident, Gilbreth said.
The case was scheduled to be heard last week in Long Hill Township (because Fugger is a town employee it could not be held in Morristown), but that "discovery" evidence had not been fully compiled and the case had to be adjourned, Gilbreth said. A case management conference was scheduled for Feb. 7.
When asked if the case had been intentionally dragged out long enough so Fugger's pension would not be put in jeopardy, Gilbreth said, "it sounds like it has gone long but it really hasn't."
Gilbreth said he did not believe his client's pension would be affected even if he were found guilty but referred the question to Vij Pawar, the town attorney, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Lisa Manshel, the employee's attorney, declined comment on Tuesday.
Manshel, of the law firm of Francis and Manshel, of Millburn, submitted a tort claim to the Town of Morristown on Dec. 18 on behalf of her client for damages. It stated Fugger had subjected Manshel's client "to a pattern of stalking, sexual harassment and retaliation for rejection of his advances" since 2009. Despite Manshel's client filing a police report and Fugger being instructed not to contact her, the suit claims on Nov. 17, 2012, he again left the female co-worker a harassing voicemail message.
The town released a statement Wednesday regarding Fugger's resignation, noting the town would not be able to comment further as it is a continuing legal matter.
"The Town always strives to create a healthy, productive work environment for all of its employees," the statement begins. "This is reflected in the Town's strict and thorough personnel procedure for reporting harassment allegations. As soon as a harassment complaint was filed against Mr. Fugger, he was immediately suspended and removed from the work place. The Town took this administrative step the same day the harassment complaint was filed to send a message that such allegations are taken seriously, and to ensure that all employees are free from any kind of harassment that is disruptive to the work environment."
The statement goes on to note that an "outside independent investigator" was hired to interview witnesses and "engage in an impartial fact finding investigation.
"However, the Town will not take any further administrative action because Mr. Fugger had already submitted a letter of resignation, and will not be returning to Town Hall," the statement reads.
This story was updated to include the Town of Morristown response.