- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) - Paterson’s City Council has approved paying $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit by a former police officer who claimed he was demoted after his boss mistakenly believed he was involved in a political campaign.

Four council members on Tuesday changed their minds after the council rejected the settlement in a 5-3 vote last week despite warnings that the cash-strapped city could end up paying more.

The incident occurred before Patterson acquired an excess insurance policy that pays the cost of settlements exceeding $500,000. As a result, city residents are left on the hook for the payout.

Northjersey.com reported the settlement and legal fees will cost taxpayers about $2.3 million. Under the agreement, Patterson is permitted to spread out the expense over two budget years.

The settlement reportedly is the largest in the city’s history for a case that went as far as the U.S Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that Jeffrey Heffernan could file a First Amendment claim against the city even if he wasn’t actually taking sides in the local mayoral race.

Heffernan claimed he was a victim of retaliation after other officers saw him picking up a campaign sign for his mother.



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