Friday, September 29, 2023

Montclair CFO whistleblower case: Judge warns of potential criminal ... - Montclair Local

Dubious, suspect, ridiculous and an uphill climb — those were just some of the words Judge Stephen Petrillo used Friday in response to arguments made by attorney Derrick Freijomil of Riker Danzig representing the Township of Montclair in the case brought by Padmaja Rao, the township’s chief financial officer.

The bombshell complaint, filed by Rao more than seven months ago, alleges that the township retaliated against her after she blew the whistle on alleged financial improprieties, including the submitting of fraudulent time records in the Montclair Fire Department and the providing of full-time health benefits to Montclair Township Council members.

Representing Rao were Nancy Erika Smith and Roosevelt Nesmith. At the defense table, Freijomil was joined by Philip George of Eric M. Bernstein & Associates, acting as attorney for Montclair’s former township manager Timothy Stafford. Rao was seated in the gallery, behind her attorneys, watching the proceedings as were several Montclair residents who made the trip to Newark’s historic courthouse.

The first matter Petrillo dispensed with during more than three hours of oral arguments was the request made by Freijomil to seal a transcript of the oral arguments and essentially close the courtroom to the public.

“Given that there are documents in the public realm, and have been since last year, I find the eleventh-hour request to be sort of dubious,” Petrillo said. “I explained to you in our conference call with Ms. Smith why...

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