Town settles lawsuit against construction official

| 21 Mar 2019 | 01:15

    WEST MILFORD – The Township Council unanimously approved a settlement with Construction Officer Timothy Ligus during its meeting Wednesday night.
    “As a result of complaints from residents about activities on the Ligus property, the township conducted a thorough investigation and found the existence of certain violations,” a joint statement released by Mayor Michele Dale and Ligus said. “Litigation and disciplinary action ensued. Through the efforts of the Office of the mayor and the parties’ respective counsel, the outstanding issues have been resolved. Mr. Ligus acknowledges the mistakes that he has made and has committed in writing that these events and actions will not occur in the future.”
    The township filed a lawsuit against Ligus in January alleging that Ligus, the head construction official for the township, was using a 10-acre parcel at 599 Morsetown Road as an illegal dump despite the land being listed as part of the Farmland Assessment program by the state.
    Under that designation, the property is assessed for a much lower tax rate than would otherwise be applied as long as it is used strictly for farming, according to the state.
    According to state property tax records, Ligus is assessed $60 on that parcel in 2019 compared to a 2.5-acre residential parcel containing a home at the same address, which was assessed at $9,684 for 2019.
    The suit sought to have Ligus stop commercial operations on the property and also seeks back taxes at the higher rate, according to the complaint and order to show cause filed with the court.
    An investigation, including photographs, by the Ferriero Engineering Inc. firm, allegedly showed that the 10-acre restricted use parcel was being used to import tree logs, soil and millings to the site, which are then moved by trucks from outside companies, according to the papers filed with the court.
    According to the resolution passed Wednesday night, Ligus agreed to stop “unauthorized” commercial activities on the property and to provide the township an engineering report showing that the activities in question have stopped and the soil has been tested and removed from the site.
    He also agreed to reimburse the township for “certain costs and benefits” he received in connection with the case, the resolution said.
    Ligus began working for the township in March of 1998 and worked as a building sub-code official before becoming the head construction official for the municipality in July 2008, according to officials.
    His duties in that role included directing investigations of residents for improper land use, similar to what he is accused of doing, officials said.
    His most recent annual salary is listed as $115,578.
    He has been suspended from his job without pay since January and will eventually return to work for the township as long as he complies with the conditions imposed in the settlement, officials said.