AC Fire Truck

As reported by, a New Jersey judge temporarily blocked the state Friday from laying off firefighters in Atlantic City, but ruled that their work schedules, salaries, and overtime can be changed by former U.S. Sen. Jeffrey S. Chiesa (R., N.J.), who is directing the state takeover of Atlantic City.

The firefighters union had sued to stop layoffs and changes to its contract.

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez said the state’s proposal to cut 100 firefighters — reducing the total to 125 — would compromise public safety. But Mendez concluded a smaller number of layoffs would be justified, given the city’s “serious economic distress.”

“A reduction to 180 would be more than reasonable,” he wrote.

The state takeover law, the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act, gives Trenton broad powers in Atlantic City — including amending contracts with public employees — to try to stabilize the city’s finances.

Mendez said that Chiesa, under that act, has “broad, extensive, and unilateral powers in order to achieve financial stability for Atlantic City” — but that he can’t base decisions only on cost savings, particularly when it comes to public safety.

Mendez said that before the litigation, Chiesa had offered few reasons as to why Atlantic City should have 125 firefighters, as opposed to another number. The union had argued having that fewer firefighters would leave the city undermanned.

Atlantic City’s full-time population is nearly 40,000, but it can swell to 165,000 with visitors and commuters.

In a statement Friday, Bill Dilorenzo, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 198, slammed the idea of layoffs.

“If you’re trying to increase the number of visitors to Atlantic City and improve its perception as a family destination, why in the world would you make these types of drastic cuts to public safety?” he said.

The state applauded Mendez’s ruling.

“We appreciate Judge Mendez’s thoughtful decision and are very pleased that our authority under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act was recognized,” said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs. “We look forward to continuing to have discussions with the city’s firefighters, which is something we’ve wanted to do all along.”

She added: “In order for Fire Department savings to be realized, we must act now, because further delays imperil our ability to achieve a balanced city budget without requiring greater sacrifices by Atlantic City taxpayers, many of whom are homeowners and small-business owners who are already overburdened by property taxes.”

In his ruling, Mendez bluntly described the tension between the state and Atlantic City officials.

“The tenor of this case has so far been hostile at best,” Mendez wrote, “with the parties utilizing terms such as ‘greedy’ and phrases such as ‘robbing the candy store’ to describe one another’s actions.”

Indeed, at a news conference early Friday afternoon, Mayor Don Guardian found another word to describe Trenton officials: “Snakes.”

“This is a fight between the governor of this state and the people of this state,” Guardian said. He added: “Let’s find the money we need.”

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Photo of Michael DeRose Michael DeRose

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey…

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey, the Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of various labor unions and their members. Michael has extensive experience defending and fighting for members of law enforcement and other public employees facing adverse disciplinary action, such as termination or suspension from employment. He also frequently argues before New Jersey’s Appellate Division on behalf of his clients.

A large portion of his practice is also devoted to contract negotiations on behalf of union clients, representing such clients in grievance arbitration/ contract disputes, and otherwise advising union leaders on labor and employment matters.  Michael also has significant experience in the realm of interest arbitration on behalf of the firm’s law enforcement and firefighter unions. As a result of the firm’s robust labor and employment practice, Michael regularly appears before various state agencies, such as the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, the State Health Benefits Commission, and NJ PERC. In addition to representing labor unions and active employees, Michael also represents retirees before the Division of Pensions in disability retirement applications, both ordinary and accidental disability retirement, in pension forfeiture actions, and in other miscellaneous pension disputes. He also counsels private business and their principals in contract and employment law, in addition to representing their interests in civil litigation. Michael has a track record of obtaining favorable outcomes for his clients and treats each everyone of them on an individual and particularized basis in accordance with their needs.

Before joining the firm in August of 2015, Michael was an associate counsel at a civil litigation firm out in Trenton, New Jersey, where he principally focused his practice around employment law and tort claims litigation. Prior to that, he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Honorable F. Patrick McManimon, Mercer County Vicinage, from September of 2012 to August of 2013, where he attained significant experience in the realm of alternative dispute resolution having mediated well-over one-hundred cases, primarily related to commercial and residential landlord/ tenant disputes and contract/ business litigation. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2012 after graduating from the Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. In 2007, he earned his Bachelor of the Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Kean University where he was a member of the Kean University baseball team and vice president of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Michael is admitted to the New Jersey State Bar, the United States Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, and is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.