Borough issues expanded statement on bias verdict

Sea Girt Police Chief Kevin Davenport. FILE PHOTO

SEA GIRT — Borough officials Monday released a statement elaborating on their reaction to  a May 28 jury verdict that awarded $1.8 million to a former Sea Girt police officer who had filed a discrimination suit against Police Chief Kevin Davenport.

The new statement reads as follows:

“While the Borough of Sea Girt respects and supports our judicial system, it is disappointed in the jury’s verdict in the litigation with retired Officer Ken Hagel. The majority of his complaint was dismissed prior to trial, including all claims of harassment and hostile work environment, with the judge concluding, based on the evidence provided, that the incidents alleged were never complained about, were too remote, i.e., occurred [and ended] too long before the promotion process started to support a cause of action and were not severe or pervasive enough to support his claims. Similarly, all claims against Chief Kevin Davenport were also dismissed. The only issue tried was Hagel’s claim that the Borough failed to promote him in 2014 notwithstanding his admission that he had never applied for the promotion. Given the undisputed evidence presented at trial regarding his failure to apply for the promotion, the Borough maintains that the court’s and the jury’s findings are against the evidence. Further, the punitive damages award is inconsistent with the prior court determination that the hostile work environment claims, which were dismissed in 2018, were not severe or pervasive.  Therefore, the Borough will exercise its right to appeal the verdict and the excess damages award. The Borough continues its unwavering support of Chief Davenport and the officers of the Sea Girt Police Department.”

On the 28th, the jury found that Mr. Davenport had engaged in anti-military and false sexual orientation discrimination against Kenneth Hagel, 50, of Point Pleasant in the process used to promote police officers to the rank of sergeant in 2013 and 2014, according to Mr. Hagel’s attorney Matthew Peluso.

Mr. Hagel was awarded $1 million in punitive damages, Mr. Peluso said, based on the jury’s finding that Chief Davenport and the Borough of Sea Girt had engaged in “egregious conduct” against the former police officer. He also was awarded $262,800 in compensation for lost salary and benefits and $500,000 in emotional distress damages.

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