The parents of a 19-year-old female EMT have filed a claim against Greenwich Township and the Greenwich Fire Department alleging that officials failed to supervise and prevent improper sexual relationships between two chief officers and minor female members.
John and Patricia Newton first informed township officials back in February about improprieties between their daughter, Jordan Newton, and Fire Chief Wade MacFarland and Assistant Chief Charles Reinhart. Jordan had been with the department since she was 16. The Newtons were told they should take the matter up with the volunteer fire department, not the township.
The Newton’s then contacted the fire department, but their concerns were not addressed there as well. On May 6, 2011, the couple filed a notice of claim with the township putting them on notice of the possibility of a lawsuit. The notice stated:
“… failure to monitor the conduct of members of the Volunteer Fire Department and to prevent coercion or improper influences being exacted upon minor females, said conduct potentially implicating violation of the Criminal Code of New Jersey as well as actionable misconduct involving a minor female with failure to report; failure to supervise; failure to investigate, said failures evidencing as well ratification of the misconduct of certain members of the Fire Department, for example, the misconduct of Wade McFarland [sic] and Charles Reinhart in engaging in improper sexual relations with an unsupervised female volunteer, said failures rising to the level of ratification or acquiescence or aiding and abetting such improper conduct, fraud, misrepresentation or willful misconduct if not criminal conduct.”
Both Fire Chief MacFarland and Assistant Chief Reinhart have stepped down from active involvement with the department. The township has hired a law firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter. Under New Jersey law, a party must file a formal claim against a public sector entity such as a township at least six months prior to filing a lawsuit. The earliest date a suit could be filed would be November 6, 2011.
Here is the New Jersey statute on claims (part of the New Jersey Claims Against Public Entities Act):
59:8-8. Time for presentation of claims
59:8-8. Time for presentation of claims. A claim relating to a cause of action for death or for injury or damage to person or to property shall be presented as provided in this chapter not later than the ninetieth day after accrual of the cause of action. After the expiration of six months from the date notice of claim is received, the claimant may file suit in an appropriate court of law. The claimant shall be forever barred from recovering against a public entity or public employee if:
a. He failed to file his claim with the public entity within 90 days of accrual of his claim except as otherwise provided in section 59:8-9; or
b. Two years have elapsed since the accrual of the claim; or
c. The claimant or his authorized representative entered into a settlement agreement with respect to the claim.
Nothing in this section shall prohibit an infant or incompetent person from commencing an action under this act within the time limitations contained herein, after his coming to or being of full age or sane mind.
Township Mayor Ted Kiefer has stated that the investigation is on-going but has not disclosed any criminal conduct. More on the story.