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Camden, N.J.’s city council agreed last Thursday to a $1.1 million settlement of federal suits by six attorneys and a secretary who alleged political influence in the city’s law department. The city agreed to the settlement on condition that the secretary, Rachel Thomas, and two attorneys still on the payroll, Golden Sunkett and Lisa Roberts, tender their resignations. The four other plaintiffs, Calvin Fisher, Lloyd Henderson, Theo Primas and Carolyn Clark, previously resigned or were dismissed. The settlement was reached in a conference June 19 that was arranged by state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin. She arranged the meeting out of frustration over the continuing legal costs from the employee suit, says Community Affairs spokesman E. J. Miranda. Tony Evans, a spokesman for Mayor Gwendolyn Faison, confirmed the settlement and said the city’s legal bills from the case recently reached $1 million. “We’re just glad to get beyond this point,” he says. Filed in 1999, the suits claimed that the seven were harassed and passed over for promotions based on political favoritism. The plaintiffs, all black, asserted that Mayor Milton Milan and City Attorney John Misci tried to force out longstanding black employees from the city attorney’s office in favor of whites. The plaintiffs had also lodged racial discrimination counts, but U.S. District Judge Stephen Orlofsky of the District of New Jersey dismissed those claims in January. Milan has since been convicted of fraud and conspiracy to solicit bribes and is serving a seven-year jail sentence. Misci resigned in August of 2000. The city council will pay $500,000 of the award. The remainder will come from a city insurance policy. The suit also named the current city attorney, Dennis Kille, who did not return a call seeking comment. The lawyer representing the seven employees, Mark Frost of Marlton, N.J.’s Frost & Zeff, declined to comment on the settlement. The city’s attorneys were Rocky Peterson of Princeton’s Hill Wallack and Charles Ercole of Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers in Cherry Hill. Ercole did not return calls; Peterson said through his assistant that he did not want to comment.

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