Assemblyman Receives Confidentiality Waiver from Former Hunterdon County Asst Prosecutor, Reiterates Request for AG to Release Documents Related to $1.5 M Whisteblower Settlement
Assembly Judiciary Chairman John McKeon on Monday announced that former assistant Hunterdon County prosecutor Bennett Barlyn has agreed to waive the confidentiality provisions in the $1.5 million settlement reached with the state as part of a whistleblower lawsuit and called on state Attorney General Chris Porrino, once again, to do the same.
McKeon received a formal letter from Barlyn on Friday waiving the confidentiality provisions, which he forwarded to the Attorney General today with a follow-up request to the previous letter sent on March 27 asking the state to waive confidentiality and release documents related to the settlement. A copy of Barlyn’s letter can be viewed here.
“Mr. Barlyn has formally granted approval on his end to release details related to the whistleblower settlement reached with the state. The ball is now in the state’s court,” said McKeon (Essex/Morris). “In the interest of transparency and accountability, I’m once again calling on the Attorney General to release documents related to this secret settlement. Taxpayers have been stuck with a roughly $5 million tab when all is said and done. They deserve to know how their money is being spent and if it is in their best interest.”
McKeon’s request comes after the Assembly unanimously approved legislation (A-4243) he sponsored to prohibit public entities and public employees from entering into confidential settlements of whistleblower claims.
McKeon introduced the bill after Barlyn, reached a settlement of his whistleblower lawsuit, which included a confidentiality agreement preventing him from revealing potentially key documents related to the case.
Barlyn filed the lawsuit against the state in 2012 alleging he had been fired in 2010 after complaining to a superior that an indictment brought by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office had been dismissed by then Attorney General Paula Dow for political reasons. In 2016, the case was settled for $1.5 million, while the state spent almost $4 million on additional legal fees. Under terms of the settlement, the state denied any wrongdoing or liability in the matter.
Barlyn voluntarily testified on the bill on March 20 before McKeon’s committee, but could not discuss many details of the case because of the settlement.
“Mr. Barlyn’s recent testimony before the Assembly Judiciary Committee highlighted the serious questions that remain surrounding the state’s motivation for dismissing the indictment against the former Hunterdon County Sheriff and two of her deputies,” McKeon wrote to Porrino. “His testimony also convinced me that many of the documents protected by the confidentiality order have the potential to shed significant light on this case.”
McKeon asked Porrino to waive confidentiality with respect to the confidential Discovery Materials covered by protective orders – excluding the grand jury transcript itself and any personal information about any of the parties to the case.
“The allegations contained in Mr. Barlyn’s whistleblower suit are deeply troubling, as is the financial cost to the state,” McKeon wrote. “And yet, more than five years after Mr. Barlyn filed his whistleblower claim, the public still has no real understanding of whether public corruption led to the dismissal of the indictment. I’m sure you’ll agree that this result is anathema to the spirit of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act.”