Lorenzo Langford and William Marsh, former Atlantic City mayor and council president respectively, have again stopped repaying a lawsuit settlement with the city that was rejected by the N.J. Supreme Court due to “appalling conflicts.”
That’s almost as shocking as the $850,000 settlement among city officials following a 1999 claim by Langford and Marsh that City Council eliminated jobs they had with the school system for political reasons.
A few weeks after Langford assumed the mayoralty for the first time and his running mates took over the majority on City Council, the council voted to settle the case by awarding Langford and Marsh the $850,000.
The New Jersey inspector general announced an investigation of the obvious conflict of interest. The city was advised to not disburse the money pending completion of that probe, but Atlantic City government paid them the money anyway. Langford and Marsh were warned to put the money into a trust while the validity of the settlement was contested, but they spent it anyway.
The case worked its way up to the state Supreme Court, which in 2007 threw out the settlement and ordered Langford and Marsh to repay the money to the city.
The following year, a Superior Court judge set up repayment schedule — but left it to the city’s director of revenue and finance to monitor the repayments. City officials have no recollection of ever doing that.
Both have made some payments, but not since 2014 for Langford and 2016 for Marsh. They still owe $534,890, according to the state Department of Community Affairs.
Fourteen years and at least a few editorials later, there are still plenty of grounds for outrage about the settlement by the city, the rushed payment, the rash spending, and the noncompliance with the Superior Court repayment order (note to ordinary citizens — don’t try this yourselves).
There is also uncertainty.
Langford’s share of the settlement was $193,785. City records show he has repaid $144,675, according to the state. Marsh got $363,785 and repaid $170,433.
The rest of the voided settlement — $292,430 — went to the lawyers. Have they repaid their share? Surely they were aware of the risks as much as anyone.
Are Langford and Marsh responsible for paying back what the lawyers have kept and spent? We hope not.
The state said it is “working toward a resolution” of the repayment issue.
This case has served as a warning to local government workers against seeking big payouts at the expense of taxpayers when they’re not merited. Such attempts seem to have lessened in Atlantic City, but there are still too many dubious lawsuits brought throughout the state.