In the mid-1990s, Richard Rivera blew the whistle on corruption in the West New York Police Department. Dozens of his colleagues faced charges, and so did the chief.
Rivera was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by psychiatrists from the state and the pension board in 2004, forcing him to retire on disability only one day after he was officially reinstated to the police force.
While the state Police and Firemen’s Retirement System has approved him for reinstatement, they deemed it should be a matter between Rivera and the Town of West New York. When he settled a civil suit in federal court and retired on disability in 2002, part of the settlement required that he never try to get his old job back.
Rivera began to quest for reinstatement over two years ago because, as he said, his PTSD had been effectively treated and he could not continue to accept the pension in good conscience.
"Why am I going to accept $30K in benefits I'm not entitled to?" he asked Thursday. "I can't accept the benefits, and I can't accept the injustice."
Despite the Appellate Division's ruling, Rivera plans to take his case to the Supreme Court. "We've already committed," he said. "The day we went to the appeal we saw which way it was going and we're going to petition. This is about three years in the making. I anticipate another year of litigation."
As to why he will not simply let it lie, Rivera said, "I am seeking justice for other people. I can easily settle this matter out of court, but I choose not to because the next person in my position might not have that option." --Gennarose Pope