Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner refused an investigation into voter fraud allegations against Atlantic City’s former mayor, according to a letter sent to the Attorney General’s Office suggesting Tyner be removed from office.
Tyner’s refusal to let Lt. Heather McManus investigate the allegations against then-Mayor Frank Gilliam is just one example of the “grossly disturbing prosecutorial misconduct” Tyner has continued to exhibit in the year since three women who worked under him filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, attorneys Michelle Douglass and Philip Burnham wrote.
The two attorneys also wondered what McManus’ investigation may have discovered in light of Gilliam’s admission in federal court that he stole more than $87,000 from a youth basketball camp.
The letter calls for Tyner to be removed from office or, at minimum, a monitor be put in place to oversee the office while a thorough investigation is conducted.
The original complaint sent Oct. 4, 2018 by McManus, former acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Diane Ruberton — who Tyner fired — and current Assistant Prosecutor Donna Fetzer, alleged everything from mortgage fraud to gender discrimination and nepotism.
The women were all interviewed by representatives from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Criminal Law Division and the newly created Office of Public Integrity & Accountability. But they have heard little since.
“It is disconcerting that more than a year has passed but little communication from your office has been forwarded to us to help us understand what, if anything, you intend to do to remedy the numerous problematic concerns and issues raised by us and others regarding Prosecutor Tyner,” attorneys for the women wrote.
In March, they filed a civil suit, which is pending in Cumberland County Superior Court, where it was moved to avoid conflict.
“Prosecutor Tyner vigorously denies these allegations,” the Camden County attorneys who are representing Tyner told BreakingAC. “The plaintiffs have filed a complaint which will be litigated in court and not in the media.”
The new allegations include an investigation by BreakingAC done after Tyner told a group at Dolphin Field that homicide cases involving minorities mainly from Atlantic City used to be labeled NIM — which he said he learned meant “non-important murder.”
A public records request by BreakingAC found the office had no such files.
Tyner’s brother, who once worked Major Crimes, confirmed to BreakingAC the files never existed.
The letter links to the BreakingAC stories, including a follow-up that included an email in which the president of Mainland PBA Local 77 — which represents the office’s detectives — claimed that he had been contacted “by several of you regarding this article, and informed about other recent situations involving possible questionable acts by the prosecutor, and possible officer safety concerns as a result of his alleged actions.”
Now a local doctor, various law enforcement officers, attorneys from Riker Danzig and private citizens have also lodged complaints, according to the letter.
Dr. Nina Radcliff — who is named in the letter — first came to BreakingAC, claiming then-Judge Tyner ignored conflicts and gave political favoritism in a case she had before him.
Another citizen claimed Tyner at first refused to prosecute a case on his behalf because the suspect “is the son of a prominent minister in Atlantic County who was responsible for holding a public rally on behalf of Tyner,” the letter states.
BreakingAC has confirmed that the suspect in that case was Anthony Hargrove, who has since been charged with failing to disclose his HIV status before having unprotected sex with two different men. At least one of the men was infected.
Hargrove’s father is bishop of Cathedral Grace Family Church and a police chaplain.
The letter also reiterates several other allegations, including that Tyner violated the county’s nepotism policy when he fired two agents days after taking office in 2017.
Gregory Zaccagnino and Douglas Maclean each made $33,000 a year when they were fired just shy of five years with the office.
After five years, Tyner would have had to have shown cause for firing the two men, Maclean told BreakingAC.
When Maclean was called into Tyner’s office “out of the blue” May 26, 2017, he said he was told his file showed he was “an exemplary officer,” but that “I need to let you go because I need to get my people in.”
On June 5, 2017, Tyner hired his brother Michael Graham — a retired Atlantic City police officer — at an annual salary of $51,000, records show.
Tyner directly supervises Graham, which violates Atlantic County’s nepotism policy.
But, county spokeswoman Linda Gilmore told BreakingAC that the prosecutor is one of four constitutional offices — which includes the surrogate, county clerk and sheriff — that “act as independent agents in terms of hiring and firing.”
“Our policies are shared with their offices but we have no enforcement authority,” she said. “The Constitutional Officer has the choice to accept county policies or assign his/her own for which he/she would be responsible to implement and enforce.”
When BreakingAC asked for a copy of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office nepotism policy, the response was that “the agency possesses no responsive records.”
It still seems a question, however, with the office’s recent attempts to get accredited.
When asked about nepotism policies, accreditation Program Director Harry Delgado said, “There are nepotism laws. Laws supersede policy. Hence, agencies must follow the law.”
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said they had not yet received the letter and that they do not make general statements about how complaints are handled.