Princeton settles lawsuit against former police chief

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The Princeton Council has approved legal settlements with several former and current Princeton police officers, bringing to a close a six-year-old lawsuit.

The lawsuit was a result in which the police officers accused a former police chief of sexual harassment, discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.

The Princeton Council voted unanimously at its Feb. 11 meeting to settle the lawsuit, which was filed in 2013 against former Chief of Police David Dudeck, the Princeton Police Department and the Town of Princeton in Mercer County Superior Court.

The settlement agreements call for payments of $150,000 to former police officer Christopher M. Quaste and $125,000 to former police officer Michael Bender, to be paid by the town’s insurance carrier.

Settlement agreements also were approved for former police officers Sharon Papp and Carol Raymond, and current police officers Daniel Chitren and Christopher P. Donnelly, but the amount that each one will receive from the town’s primary and excess liability insurers has not been made public at this time.

The resolution stated that “the specific amounts of the individual settlements have been tentatively agreed to, but require final approval of the Municipal Excess Liability fund.” The amounts of the settlements will be made public after final approval is granted.

The Town of Princeton “does not make any admission of liability, but has decided that a negotiated settlement of these claims” would better serve the public’s interest by avoiding additional legal bills that would have resulted if the lawsuit(s) had gone to trial, according to the resolutions authorizing the settlements.

The payments also are contingent upon each police officer signing the settlement agreements and mutual releases, along with a “stipulation of dismissal with prejudice” of their claims – which means they cannot file another lawsuit.

A seventh police officer, retired police Sgt. Steven Riccitello who was involved in the lawsuit, accepted $100,000 for dropping his part in the lawsuit in November 2018.

All of the police officers are members of the former Princeton Borough Police Department. Their lawsuit, which was filed in 2013, claims there was a pattern of sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and disability by Dudeck, the former police chief.

The officers pointed to specific instances in which Dudeck allegedly made sexual references or innuendos to the police officers, including calling gay female police officers and other women “dykes,” regardless of their sexual orientation. Papp and Raymond are lesbians.

Dudeck, who retired in 2013, allegedly threatened and intimidated police officers that if they ever spoke out against him or filed any complaints against him, they would be committing career suicide, the lawsuit said.