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Gay police
officer wins discrimination suit

Gay police
officer wins discrimination suit

A gay police officer who claimed that Haledon, N.J., police discriminated against him has settled his suit for $450,000, reports the Associated Press. Sgt. James Len, a 20-year veteran of the force, claimed in May 2004 that he had been passed over for promotion and suffered harassment because he is gay.

The settlement won't be finalized until the borough council in Haledon approves. If it is accepted, taxpayers can be expected to foot $30,000 of the award, Mayor Domenick Stampone told the AP. A borough insurer will pay the remaining funds.

In 2002, Len told his wife and children he was gay and moved out of their home. Shortly after, he began to face sexual harassment at work. According to Len's claim, he was reprimanded for minor tardiness, though his colleagues were not. He also said that former councilman Ayman Mamkej once radioed "Homo, homo, homo," and former mayor Ken Pengitore called him a "three-dollar bill."

He cited an instance when the two men followed him in their cars when he was off duty. He was told that his promotion to lieutenant was dismissed because he failed to turn in the paperwork on time.

The council has 45 days to approve the settlement and 45 additional days to pay it, Charles Sciarra, Len's Clifton,N.J.-based attorney, told the AP.

On January 18 the council will convene to consider the settlement.

As part of the settlement, Len's file will be cleared of past and pending charges made by the police department. Any future promotions must be done in "good faith," explained Sciarra during proceedings in superior court.

Len has been advised by his lawyer not to talk to the press and to "look forward, not look back." Mamkej could not be reached at press time, and Pengitore declined to comment.

Stampone, who defeated the Republican Pengitore in the November mayoral race, said the Len suit is an unfortunate and isolated occurrence, "not what the borough of Haledon is about." (The Advocate)

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