Veteran sues Franklin Twp. over firing

Posted: March 23, 2014

A former deputy superintendent of public works is suing Franklin Township, saying he was fired without being given the reasons and the hearing guaranteed him under state law for veterans.

Richard Yusko, an Army veteran, submitted his suit against the Gloucester County township Friday, citing a law sometimes referred to as the Veterans Tenure Act.

Under the act, veterans who are public employees cannot be fired "except for good cause shown after a fair and impartial hearing, but such person shall hold his employment, position or office during good behavior, and shall not be removed for political reasons."

Before that veteran can be dismissed, the law reads, "charges shall be preferred against him, a copy of which shall be served upon him and a time set for the hearing of same."

Yusko, 58, of the Franklinville section of Franklin Township, served two six-month tours in Iraq in 10 active-duty years with the U.S. Army, he said. He was honorably discharged April 7, 2012, his lawyer said, after an additional 12 years in the Army Reserves.

Yusko was told Feb. 27 that his employment with the township would end March 14, according to the suit.

His suit claims he was given no notice of the reasons for his firing, nor was he given a hearing.

"The point is that he's entitled to officially being told what the charges are and being given a hearing," said Mark Cimino, his lawyer.

In a statement released last week, the township's deputy mayor said Yusko had been "put on notice of various performance-related concerns" and given about six months to acquire job credentials he did not ultimately attain.

"He was coached and clearly advised of the expectations required, yet he failed to meet those expectations," the statement from Louis Gonzalez reads.

"Mr. Yusko demonstrated poor leadership, was insubordinate, and exhibited a poor job performance. These concerns were also brought to Mr. Yusko's attention," Gonzalez said in the statement. "However, insufficient levels of improvement were demonstrated."

Gonzalez, who said he was present at the meeting in which Yusko was fired, declined Friday to comment on the firing.

Cimino dismissed what he called the "vague allegations" because, he said, they had not been formally presented to Yusko when he was fired.

Mayor Edward Leopardi also declined to comment, citing the litigation. He referred questions to the township solicitor, who did not return a request for comment Friday.

According to local media reports, some Franklin residents spoke out against the firing at a township committee meeting last week. Minutes from that meeting were not available Friday, the township clerk said, because they had not yet been approved by the Township Committee.

Without a job, Yusko and his wife, who have a teenage son who has a physical disability, have been struggling to pay medical and other bills, Cimino said.

The suit seeks reinstatement for Yusko. He is weighing his options in the meantime, Cimino said.

Yusko's suit calls for a jury trial and also asks for compensation for humiliation, economic loss, and pain and suffering, punitive damages, and legal fees.

856-779-3220 @elaijuh

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