John Devlin was ousted from his position heading the Atlantic City MUA Board as political retaliation, he claims in a $10 million tort claim.
A split City Council removed Devlin last month, after the current and former Municipal Utilities Authority executive directors made claims he overstepped his position as board chair and interfered with day-to-day operations.
But Devlin has claimed it was a move orchestrated by Mayor Marty Small.
The two men have become fierce political rivals, fed by questions Devlin raised about the mayor’s wife, Dr. La’Quetta Small, on her road to becoming the district’s superintendent of schools.
Small has denied any involvement in the removal other than calling the special meeting, since that power lies solely with the mayor. He could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.
Devlin’s tort claim says he was libeled by “false and disparaging letters” authored by MUA Executive Director Michael Armstrong, former Executive Director Bruce Ward and MUA employee Claud Smith.
Small led a “conspiracy to politically retaliate and discriminate against” Devlin by “soliciting and directing other private persons and public employees and officials … to commit acts of official misconduct, perjury, false swearing (and) the submission of false certifications and affidavits to a Court,” the filing states.
“I served my city honorably and won’t allow lackeys and puppets to damage my good name,” Devlin told BreakingAC.
“Sadly, I had to file a lawsuit to get a fair shake. I can’t sit on my hands and let people like Mike Armstrong, Marty Small, George Tibbitt and many others continue to violate my rights and break the law,” he said. “I look forward to the day when my legal team can conduct depositions from these parties so we can find out the real truth to secretly held meetings that violated the law and what political bosses are really pulling the cords on these puppets.”
The issue saw Councilman Bruce Weekes, who ran on Small’s ticket, publicly distance himself from the mayor, saying he was disappointed that this was where Small chose to put his focus.
Weekes, LaToya Dunston and Jesse Kurtz voted against Devlin’s removal. They also opposed the hearing.
“I feel like the decision was already made before we had the hearing,” Dunston said shortly after the vote.
The intention to sue claims Devlin suffered “severe emotional distress, mental anguish, damage to reputation both personal and business, shock, embarrassment, humiliation, destruction of career in public employment, loss of past, present, and future wages and benefits, and other economic losses, including attorneys’ fees.”