A former lawyer for the city of Newark claims he was threatened, harassed and ultimately fired by Mayor Ras Baraka and his top aides for refusing to sign off on a multimillion-dollar development deal, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday.
Willie Parker, the city’s former corporation counsel, sued the city, Baraka and the mayor’s brother, Amiri Baraka Jr., who serves as chief of staff, along with two other city officials. Parker says his case reveals “an alarming picture of a mayor and governmental entity run riot with retaliatory animus.”
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Newark a day after Baraka announced he’s running for re-election next year. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Parker alleged that in August 2016 the city was negotiating a development contract that included a harmful provision that would cost the city millions of dollars while benefiting “private commercial interests.” The suit doesn’t name the developer or specify details about the contract.
Parker alleged that Amiri Baraka Jr. ordered him to approve the deal, at one point emphasizing that it had to be done for “purely political reasons.” Shortly after recounting that conversation for the mayor, Parker added, Amiri Baraka called him and later arrived outside his home with his security detail, asking Parker why he had “snitched.”
Mayor Baraka allegedly placed Parker under surveillance, having pictures taken of him outside municipal court, the lawsuit adds. Parker suffered a heart attack in October 2016, which he blamed on stress caused by the city’s allegedly retaliatory measures.
Parker, a former chief prosecutor for the city, wants his job back and is asking for at least $1 million to $5 million in damages. His attorney is Gregg H. Salka of Hackensack. The lawsuit is before Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson.