He says elected officials and municipal employees allegedly made insensitive jokes about his race and religion, creating a hostile work environment.
Ahmed Naga, the first Muslim chief of the Long Hill Township Police Department, says he’s endured ongoing and repeated acts of harassment, discrimination, heightened scrutiny and a hostile work environment, according to a notice of tort claim his attorney filed with the township.
Township Attorney Jack Pidgeon did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the allegations.
The tort notice states Deputy Mayor Guy Piserchia – who was mayor at the time – asked Naga at a Sept. 11, 2021, memorial service if he was “a member of the Taliban.”
On Dec. 7, 2021, Councilman Victor Verlezza allegedly made a crude and racist remark about Muslims during a phone call with Naga, the tort notice states.
In an April 27, 2021, meeting in the chief’s office with two members of the committee and an assistant, another racist comment was allegedly made by Piserchia, the notice alleges.
“Piserchia (said) if he had known I was Muslim he wouldn’t have promoted me,” Naga said in an email Friday that was forwarded to NJ Advance Media by his attorney.
Piserchia “has also said to other township committee members that he doesn’t want to see a mosque in Long Hill,” Naga claimed in the email.
Piserchia and Verlezza did not immediately respond on Friday to calls and emails seeking comment.
In May, Naga also allegedly overheard one councilman say to another, “The chief doesn’t understand (how) to turn the other cheek. It’s not his religion.”
Naga, 44, has been chief since August 2018. Before his promotion, he served as a lieutenant in the police department for more than 19 years, according to his LinkedIn page.
The notice of tort claim accuses Piserchia, Verlezza, other members of the township committee, and some municipal employees of causing Naga to experience stress, strain, emotional distress, economic losses, and discrimination.
The chief says he’s been seeing a licensed professional counselor for weekly therapy sessions to deal with his work conditions and other family problems he says were caused by the job.
Despite the stress, “this in no way has interfered with my ability to perform my full police function,” the chief states in the tort claim notice.
In the email he sent to his attorney Friday, Naga explained that members of the township committee rotate each year to the position of mayor. Naga said Piserchia was serving as mayor when he allegedly made the racist remark during a Sept. 11 memorial service.
The current mayor, Matthew Dorsi, “has not made any racial slurs directly to me,” Naga said. However, Dorsi’s name is listed in the tort notice as one of the elected officials who allegedly “caused injury.”
Dorsi told NJ Advance Media on Friday he’s never harassed the chief, but he added he “cannot comment on pending litigation.”
The notice lists eight people in the township who either witnessed the racist remarks or have knowledge that some or all of the remarks were made.
Attorney Patrick Toscano, who filed the notice on behalf of Naga, said Friday the remarks allegedly made to the chief “would and should sicken any rationally thinking human being.”
“These people should be ashamed of themselves,” Toscano said. “Long Hill Township and all involved racist employees will indeed be called upon to answer for their gross and incomprehensible indiscretions.”