Responding to a question from Secaucus resident Marianne Weiner at Tuesday night's Town Council meeting, Mayor Dennis Elwell said that most of the money awarded to the couple will be covered by various insurance policies held by the town.
A small amount will come out of the town's budget, which is funded partly by taxpayers and partly by state aid.
In addition, the town's insurance rates will increase as a result of the verdict and the large payout awarded to the plaintiffs.
"We don't know yet how much of an increase we'll see. We won't know that until our policies come up for renewal," Elwell said Tuesday.
On June 10, a Hudson County jury awarded $2.8 million to former Secaucus residents Peter DeVries and Timothy Carter after concluding the town did not adequately protect them from harassment and anti-gay discrimination when they lived next door to the North End firehouse for three years.
The town will also have to pay the pair's legal fees, which their attorney said are close to $2 million.
The town plans to appeal, so it will not have to pay the judgment right away.
Insurance payout If the ruling stands, DeVries will get $1 million for emotional distress and pain and suffering, in addition to $446,000 for loss of income.
Carter is owed $1.4 million for emotional distress and pain and suffering.
The town's JIF, Suburban Essex Municipal Joint Insurance Fund, will cover $150,000 of the judgment. The Municipal Excess Liability Fund will shell out another $850,000.
Additional money will come from an excess insurance carrier.
The town's legal fees are also covered by insurance.
Secaucus will have to pay $30,000 out-of-pocket in cash.
This money will have to come from the town budget, although it doesn't necessarily mean a tax increase, because other amounts may offset it.
Despite the large judgment awarded to the plaintiffs, Secaucus is not in danger of being dropped by any of its insurance carriers, according to the mayor.
However, Elwell said, "Our excess carrier has requested that we [pass] new ordinances and take action to protect ourselves from similar lawsuits in the future."
Residents speak out The fact that the town - and taxpayers - may have to pay for the actions of a few firefighters doesn't sit well with some residents.
"This kind of behavior wasn't acceptable 20 years ago, so it certainly isn't acceptable today," said one woman at the meeting who asked not to be identified. "But I don't think the whole town should have to pay for what a couple of people did."
Another woman who also wanted to remain anonymous agreed.
"Do the guys who did this have to pay anything? No. I don't think that's right," she said.
"Why should I, as a taxpayer, have to pay anything? I didn't have anything to do with this."
She said she didn't want to use her name either, because, she said, "I don't really want to get too involved."
Although the case has been a major topic of conversation in town and on Hudson County internet blogs, almost no residents last week were willing to discuss the case on the record, perhaps an indication that residents want to avoid sullying the Secaucus firefighters who were not involved.
The town's fire department is all-volunteer, although the men can receive stipends based on the number of fires to which they respond.
Three firefighters may face action In their lawsuit, Carter and DeVries alleged that this harassment culminated in an attack in April 2004 when a few possibly drunk firefighters began yelling anti-gay epithets outside their home, threw items onto their property, and threatened to kill them.
The Secaucus Police Department, the plaintiffs' attorneys argued, failed to adequately investigate these incidents and did more to protect the firefighters than Carter and DeVries.
In ruling in the couple's favor, the jury concluded that the town was liable for the actions of its employees and volunteers.
Although three volunteer firefighters were identified in court documents as lead participants in the April 2004 incident, no individuals have been arrested or charged in the case, and no one from either the police or fire department has been disciplined in the matter.
In light of the jury ruling, Mayor Elwell and the Town Council are investigating whether internal disciplinary action is warranted.
Residents want to be anonymous Most of those interviewed expressed sympathy for Carter and DeVries, even if they believed the judgment amount was too high.
"I don't think what they [the firefighters] did was right," said resident Jim Tomeh, who is a firefighter in Moonachie. "If you don't like them [gay people], or don't like what they do, okay. You have a right to your opinion. But you don't have a right to threaten them or violate their rights. That's where you have to draw the line."
But a few residents were less sympathetic. One middle-aged man described the couple as standoffish and implied that they brought trouble to their own doorstep.
"I remember those two," the man said Tuesday afternoon. "One of them used to wear a cowboy hat and he'd walk down the street like he owned the place. You'd say, 'Hi' to them, and they wouldn't say nothing back to you. That's why they had problems in the town. It wasn't 'cause they were homosexuals. Those two are nothing but con artists."
Aside from the mayor's comments at Tuesday's meeting, Elwell and members of the Town Council have refused to publicly address the case, noting that defense attorneys have warned them not to talk about it, so as not to hurt chances of an appeal.
Defense attorney Daniel Bevere has declined to state whether he plans to appeal the verdict. But several observers close to the case have said an appeal is likely within the next 45 days.