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Camden, N.J., City Attorney John A. Misci Jr. filed a nine-count racial discrimination suit in the U.S. District Court in Camden, N.J., late Thursday. The suit names six of seven Camden City Council members as defendants and alleges widespread and pervasive racial discrimination by the predominantly minority council. Michael McGuire, the only white member of the city council, was not named in the suit. The suit names council president Gwendolyn Faison and council members Israel Nieves, Angel Fuentes, Francisco Moran, Ali-Sloan-El and Gilbert Wilson as defendants. The complaint alleges the defendants have violated Misci’s civil rights guaranteed by the federal and state Constitutions. The complaint says, “They have all used their office as city council members to systematically, deliberately, callously and maliciously discriminate against plaintiff, create a hostile work environment for plaintiff, retaliate against plaintiff and exercise their discretion in a discriminatory, retaliatory and illegal manner.” The counts listed in the complaint include First and Fourteenth Amendment violations, conspiracy to violate plaintiff’s civil rights, civil conspiracy, violations of public policy, violations of New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and violations of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Misci is seeking injunctive relief, as well as punitive and compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees. The city attorney filed the suit pro se and stated in an interview that he was not ready to decide which of three law firms he would choose to represent him. Misci filed his complaint one day prior to a special city council meeting during which the council will vote on a resolution to suspend Misci with pay from his $71,000 a year city attorney post. “I wanted the world to know what was going on in Camden,” Misci said. “The U.S. government should investigate every one of them for violations of my civil rights.” Specifically, Misci contended that the city council denied him a hearing for cause when they approved a resolution calling for his resignation on a vote of “no confidence” last week. He named other actions in which council conspired by “exercising official City Council authority and officially voting based upon race — an illegal act,” according to the complaint. The lawsuit comes amid continued controversy surrounding Mayor Milton Milan’s surprise appointment of Misci as Camden Chief Municipal Court judge. On July 24, the mayor appointed and personally swore Misci in, despite the requirement that a Superior Court judge administer the oath of office and that the appointed judge first obtain the approval of City Council. Superior Court Assignment Judge Francis J. Orlando the next day issued a restraining order barring the appointment from being carried out. During a subsequent hearing on Wednesday, Judge Orlando lifted a restraining order against James W. Faison III, whom Misci was to replace, restoring him to his previous standing as chief municipal judge in holdover status. Orlando noted that the stalemate created by the mayor’s decision to stand by his chosen appointee and city council’s stated objective to deny his confirmation could result in a long-term vacancy to one of busiest courts in the county. The assignment judge said that he acted in the interest of justice by restoring the incumbent judge to the bench. Calling Milan’s appointment of Misci “highly irregular and unusual,” Orlando kept the restraining order against Misci in place until a successor is duly appointed and confirmed. The mayor responded by saying the legislature was interfering in what was essentially an executive process. Misci denied allegations that the suit is a tactic designed to intimidate city council members who have publicly stated their opposition to his nomination to the municipal bench. If appointed, Misci would replace the son of council president Gwendolyn Faison, who has acted as chief judge since 1986. The 36-year-old city attorney is himself a defendant in a racial discrimination suit brought in November by six former members of the city attorney’s office. The suit names Misci, First Assistant City Attorney Marc A. Riondino, former Assistant City Attorney Steven Buividas, Mayor Milan, and the City of Camden. The six black lawyers allege that they were the targets of bigoted slights, as well as biased pay and promotion practices that created a hostile work climate. The attorneys also accused Milan and Misci in the lawsuit of systematically removing black lawyers from the city attorney’s Office and replacing them with lawyers who were amenable to their politics. The mayor and Misci have maintained that the claims are groundless, and that the city will ultimately prevail when the case goes to court. In an interview yesterday, Misci claimed equal confidence he will prevail in his pending suit against city council. “I can’t wait to go to court,” Misci said. “This case is a slam dunk.”

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