State Sen. Nicholas Scutari scored another win in a defamation lawsuit against Linden Mayor Derek Armstead after a Superior Court Judge rejected Armstead’s legal maneuvers for the second time in five weeks.
Armstead had sought reconsideration of a January ruling by Superior Court Judge Alan Lesnewich allowing Scutari’s legal action against Armstead to proceed. He dismissed an allegation of malicious prosecution but ruled that charges of defamation and political activity retaliation may continue.
Lesnewich had denied a bid to dismiss two of three counts.
Scutari, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Union County Democratic Chairman, accused Armstead of making false statements regarding his tenure as the Linden municipal prosecutor.
“I support the decision to investigate Nick Scutari for his absenteeism. Taxpayers will no longer tolerate waste, fraud, and abuse in City Government,” Armstead said, according to court records.
Armstead fired Scutari in January 2019 and replaced him with Deirdre Mason, a Scotch Plains attorney.
He said Armstead withheld a 2005 personnel policy memorandum that allowed the municipal prosecutor to miss a certain number of court sessions without penalty – and then requires that the prosecutor pay for replacements when he was not available to be in court.
Scutari had personally paid the cost substitute – a common practice in New Jersey – when he was unavailable to be in court himself.