Settlement reached in KPD discrimination suit

UNION COUNTY, NJ — A discrimination lawsuit filed by a former police officer against the Kean University Police Department has finally been settled after years of delay.

Randy Diakunczak, a former officer with the Kean PD, agreed to a $30,000 settlement with Kean University last week in Superior Court in Elizabeth on the second day of a trial that was projected to last about two weeks.

Diakunczak, who is Jewish, had alleged that several officers at the department had taken part in a campaign of torment that involved racial slurs and defacing his personal property during the course of several years.

During opening remarks at the trial Diakunczak’s attorney, Arthur Murray, read aloud a list of profanities and slurs allegedly used regularly against him in on the job.

In his suit, Diakunczak claimed that administrators at Kean ignored his complaints about discrimination and abuse and later fired him for speaking out.
Leonard Leicht, an attorney for Kean, told jurors that the school had not discriminated against Diakunczak.

Jurors also heard from Lt. Michael Gorman, the Kean police officer who forensic experts proved to have defaced approximately 20 business cards belonging to Diakunczak with a variety of slurs racial and homophobic profanities. Gorman testified that it was a joke that had gone “too far.”

Leicht stated that the school had taken swift action in investigating the business card incident.

Kean University said it investigated all Diakunczak’s claims, and stated that the majority of his complaints were without merit.

In July, Kean filed its own suit against Diakunczak, claiming that he owed the university $30,000 that he was paid while appealing his firing by the department.

LocalSource reached out to Diakunczak, who said that he was unable to comment.

LocalSource also reached out to Leicht, who said that the newspaper was already in receipt of a statement from Kean.

The issues began back in 2004, when Diakunczak, who was working as a security officer in the Kean University Police Department, alleged that he became the target of several officers, who called him a variety of racial slurs and threatened him with violence when he confronted them.

After Diakunczak lodged a formal complaint about the abuse, he said he faced a series of allegedly retaliatory write-ups and disciplinary actions.

Diakunczak reported the business card incident to Charlie Williams, Director of the Kean University Affirmative Action Program, alleging discrimination based on his Jewish ethnicity, retaliation, and breaches in confidentiality.

In July 2010, Diakunczak was informed by Kean University President Dawood Farahi that an investigation conducted by the Office of Affirmative Action Programs into the actions of Sgt. Carlos Gonzalez, Gorman, and Chief David Parks was concluded and did not reveal sufficient evidence to substantiate a violation of the New Jersey state policy prohibiting discrimination in the workplace.

In 2014, Diakunczak was terminated after Kean officials deemed that he had mishandled a campus trespass call.

Kean University released a statement following the its settlement with Diakunczak.

“Kean University was confident of prevailing at trial, but made a business decision to end the Diakunczak case, which had been pending for five years, to avoid further legal and trial expenses,” read the statement. “The $30,000 settlement is favorable to Kean University in the context of considering the costs of a multi-week trial. The University has not admitted any wrongdoing in resolving the case. This settlement allows the Kean University Police Department to continue its focus on protecting the campus community and maintaining one of the safest university campuses in the state.”

Not addressed in the statement is whether Diakunczak’s request for a letter of good standing was granted. Diakunczak has been unable to find employment as a police officer due to being fired from Kean.

According to public records, there have been approximately 25 lawsuits filed against Kean University between 2004 and 2016, most of which have been for civil rights discrimination and employment discrimination.