A lieutenant in the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office has filed a lawsuit against the office, contending he was retaliated against after reporting discriminatory comments made by superiors.
Lt. James Ballenger’s lawsuit follows three others filed by employees in the South Jersey office alleging discrimination by higher-ups. His suit, filed Friday in Superior Court in Woodbury, comes amid a period of transition in the Prosecutor’s Office.
On March 5, then-Prosecutor Charles A. Fiore abruptly resigned, telling employees by email that his “very difficult decision” was made for family reasons.
Fiore, who took office in November 2017, is criticized in Ballenger’s lawsuit and in another lawsuit filed March 9 by Detective Breia Renner, both of which contend that he discriminated against Renner because she is a gay woman and that he also made discriminatory remarks against minorities while in office. Ballenger’s suit, unlike Renner’s, does not name Fiore as a defendant.
Ballenger’s lawsuit also contends that a captain in the office, Robert Pietrzak, made discriminatory remarks against minorities and others, and alleges that Pietrzak and Lt. Stacie Lick, under Fiore’s direction, used the office’s internal affairs process to retaliate against Ballenger.
Messages left for Fiore and Lick on Monday were not returned. The office’s spokesperson, Chief of Detectives Thomas Gilbert, said Monday that the office would have no comment.
Ballenger’s suit contends he was retaliated against after reporting acts of discrimination on two occasions: After a June 2018 golf outing in which Fiore allegedly asked Renner who the “bitch” was in her relationship with her wife, and more recently after he testified in a deposition as part of ongoing proceedings in a lawsuit filed by another detective, Eric Shaw.
Shaw’s lawsuit against the Prosecutor’s Office, filed in 2017, contends that Pietrzak discriminated against Shaw because of his service in the military reserve. His suit followed one filed in 2014 by Detective Bradd Thompson, who serves in the Air National Guard, and who also alleged that Pietrzak subjected him to “military harassment.” Their lawsuits contended that Pietrzak called them “double dippers.” Thompson’s suit was settled in 2016.
During his September deposition in Shaw’s lawsuit, Ballenger testified that Fiore had made discriminatory remarks to Renner about her sexual orientation and that the then-prosecutor had said “he wished he could hire a ‘one-eyed black female who walks with a limp’ so he could cover all the bases,” according to Ballenger’s lawsuit.
After Fiore read Ballenger’s deposition transcript, Ballenger was reassigned around January to the Special Investigations Unit, where he supervises just one detective, his suit says. He was forced to give up his office, and is the only management-level employee required to work in a cubicle, the suit says.
Attorneys at Mount Laurel-based Costello & Mains, who filed the lawsuits for Ballenger, Shaw, and Thompson, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.