- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

SPARTA TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey water-treatment worker who said in a lawsuit that he was the target of retaliation after reporting an alleged order to manipulate drinking-water test results has been paid $300,000 in a settlement.

Mark Nelson in May 2013 said Sparta Township’s Municipal Utilities Director Phil Spaldi told him to boost the treatment for excess lead and copper to produce acceptable test results. Nelson said he told his supervisor, Michael Sportelli, of the impropriety but then suffered retaliation.

The 18-year employee said he was written up six times by Sportelli for “job performance deficiencies,” received a 30-day suspension without pay and a salary reduction when he returned. Nelson also said he was ordered by Sportelli to climb a water tank during a lightning storm to work on an electrical panel.

The settlement, in May, was first reported by John Paff, of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government. The New Jersey Herald reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/2aoakeR) that officials wouldn’t comment on the claims. The township admitted no liability.

Phone messages left for Spaldi and Sportelli weren’t returned.

Under a confidentiality clause in the settlement, the parties agree to respond to inquiries saying “all matters have been amicably resolved.” And Sparta Mayor Christine Quinn said she couldn’t comment due to the confidentiality provision.

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Information from: The New Jersey Herald (Newton, N.J.), http://www.njherald.com

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