Pricey settlements continue to add up


Another in a series of lawsuits filed in recent years against the Belleville Board of Education and its former chief school administrator has been settled.

On Aug. 22, the school board ratified terms of a deal agreeing to pay plaintiff Maria Notare, who served as personal secretary to former Superintendent of Schools Joseph Picardo, the sum of $90,000.

Of that amount, Notare is to receive $52,915.74 and her attorney Phillip B. Linder is getting $37,084.26 for legal fees and expenses.

In an agreement signed by the plaintiff, Notare agrees to “release and give up any and all claims” against the school board, Picardo, New Jersey Schools Insurance Group and Summit Risk Services in return for the settlement.

In her lawsuit, filed in May 2013, Notare alleged that Picardo – who, along with the school board, knew that she had a history of mental illness – but was satisfied with her job performance.

However, Notare’s legal complaint said, Picardo allegedly complained about her condition and periodic hospitalizations to school employees and board members.

Notare alleged that in May 2012 she learned she was not being reappointed to her job for the 2012-2013 school year and was terminated June 30, 2012, and was told that she was being let go for budgetary reasons but was not given the opportunity to return at a lower salary.

Ultimately, her complaint says, she was let go because of her medical history. That, in turn, led to her suing for compensatory and consequential damages.

In 2014, the board agreed to an $80,000 settlement with Iris Rodriguez, who alleged she was wrongfully dismissed from her job as an attendance officer/investigator assistant on June 30, 2011, after having worked 11 years as retaliation for having refused to participate in unnamed “unlawful conduct.”

Other prior settlements included a $515,000 payout resulting from a “whistleblower” lawsuit filed in 2012 by Michele DeMartino, the district’s former athletic trainer, and a payment of $455,000 from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed, also in 2012, by Michael J. Meyers, former curriculum director.

A lawsuit filed by Pamela Marino, former school nurse, resulted in a payout of $35,000.

Two other lawsuits were filed by Picardo’s former secretary Donna Cardillo and former School 5 principal Gabriel Nazziola. Their outcomes could not be readily learned as of press time.

Picardo, who was placed on administrative leave by the board in September 2012, and resigned by year’s end. He is receiving a state pension of $195,000 a year.

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