Lawsuit Against Stafford, Spodofora, Giberson Settled for $34,000

Aug 24, 2016
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds Stafford Mayor John Spodofora

A civil lawsuit against Stafford Township, Mayor John Spodofora and now-former Police Chief Joseph Giberson III by a local Navy veteran, accusing them of conducting a “baseless” criminal investigation against him, recently was settled in state Superior Court, according to legal documents made public last week.

The settlement, dated June 13, was for $34,000, of which $6,800 was paid by the township, according to Township Administrator James Moran. The remaining 80 percent of the settlement was paid by the Ocean County Joint Insurance Fund, through which Stafford is insured, Moran said.

The legal documents from the suit were made public on Aug. 17 by John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project and its Preempted Ordinance Repeal Project. Paff had sent an email to The SandPaper with internet links to the suit documents.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit was Earl Galloway, who according to the legal documents had pursued Spodofora, starting October 2011, to find out more regarding the mayor’s military service in the Navy during the Vietnam conflict and later became suspicious of Spodofora’s claims, which led to various exchanges between Galloway and Spodofora during the course of several years.

Ultimately, according to the legal documents, the plaintiff in January 2014 created a “spoof” Facebook page, “based upon the discovery of all of Spodofora’s exaggerations and fabrication,” under the title “Spodophony,” as Galloway sought to post “accurate information to correct the exaggerations and fabrications, perpetuated by Spodofora.”

After the “Plaintiff’s ‘Spodophony’ Facebook page was reported to and deleted by Facebook” in March 2014, the legal documents state that Galloway was informed “by an assigned command investigator for the Commanding Officer of Naval Weapons Station Earle for the United States Navy, with whom Plaintiff is employed as a United States Navy civilian employee, that Spodofora filed a charge of identify theft against Plaintiff with the local authorities for the ‘Spodophony’ Facebook page and that he was being investigated by the Navy for misuse of a government computer.”

Following a series of alleged events during the remainder of 2014 and into the first quarter of 2015 – detailed by the legal documents as various accusations by Spodofora against Galloway, an investigation by Stafford police regarding possible identity theft by Galloway, among other things – the plaintiff filed the lawsuit on April 22, 2015.

As part of the suit, Galloway alleged that the township had generated a precarious set of circumstances within his role as a civilian employee with the Navy, including the potential loss of his security clearance, and forced him to withdraw from public participation in at least one organization, the Stafford GOP Club.

As part of the settlement agreement, all parties are not permitted to publicly discuss the settlement or disparage each other in any manner. The settlement agreement specifies that it is not an indicator in any way that either party is guilty of any of the claims within the lawsuit.

Moran said settling the lawsuit was in the best interest of the town’s taxpayers, citing that an ongoing legal battle only would have resulted in increased costs ultimately paid by the taxpayers.

“Had we not taken the recommendation of our insurance company, the town then would have been 100 percent liable for all costs,” Moran said. “Settling the lawsuit was the best option for the betterment of the town.”

— David Biggy

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