- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A well-known former sheriff who was hired to be the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s No. 2 two police official sued the agency Wednesday, claiming it retaliated against him when he reported violations to superiors.

Jerry Speziale filed the lawsuit in federal court in Newark. The former Passaic County sheriff claims he was offered a position by Port Authority official David Wildstein as deputy police superintendent, with a mandate to uncover and report corruption wasteful spending in the agency’s 1,700-member police department. But Speziale claims after he reported violations, he was subject to retaliation and harassment.

Wildstein, the Port Authority’s director of interstate capital projects, resigned last year in the wake of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.

Among Speziale’s allegations are that he was denied security credentials for Port Authority facilities, rendering him unable to respond to an emergency unless he was escorted; had his work vehicle taken away; was denied medical leave benefits for his terminally ill wife and prevented from traveling with her to Texas for treatment; had his Facebook account hacked and was subjected to “daily harassment, intimidation and demeaning conduct.”

The suit alleges violation of state whistleblower protections, creation of a hostile work environment and other claims. It seeks unspecified compensatory damages including back pay and future pay.

Speziale resigned from the $198,000 position last year to become police chief in the town of Prichard, Alabama. A message left for him there was not returned Wednesday. A Port Authority spokesman declined to comment.

Speziale formerly worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York City Police Department, alongside former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. His tenure as sheriff, a job he was first elected to in 2001, helped burnish his reputation as a powerful Democratic fundraiser and colorful figure who sometimes got personally involved in apprehending suspects. He sold the movie rights to his memoir and acted in the 2009 movie “Brooklyn’s Finest” with Richard Gere and Wesley Snipes.

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