Ex-security chief sues Golden Nugget Atlantic City over firing www.privateofficer.com
Atlantic City NJ May 11 2012 Marion Howard was fired from his job as Golden Nugget’s security director three months ago in what he believes was retaliation for reporting alleged dangerous behavior exhibited by Executive Vice President and General Manager Tom Pohlman, according to a lawsuit filed at the Atlantic County courthouse.
In the complaint is a description of Pohlman interrogating an employee identified only as “Carlos,” who had allegedly used his cell phone to take photos underneath a female co-worker’s skirt. Pohlman became so angry during the interrogation — which Howard observed and later reported — that he pushed Carlos against a wall and ripped the man’s shirt off his back, the lawsuit states
The complaint, which was filed April 13, names the Golden Nugget Atlantic City and Pohlman. Howard, who lives in the Smithville section of Galloway Township, had been the property’s security director since Landry’s Inc. bought the former Trump Marina Hotel Casino in May 2011 and rebranded it as the Golden Nugget. Previously, he was the director of security for Trump Marina since December 2007.
Tiffany Hauck, a spokeswoman for the Golden Nugget, said the company generally does not comment on pending litigation. However, in this case the company provided a brief statement.
“We believe there is no merit to the case and appropriate action was taken with regard to the termination of Mr. Howard,” Hauck wrote in an email.
According to the lawsuit, on Feb. 15, Howard began investigating whether photos were taken underneath an employee’s skirt by locating witnesses and interviewing surveillance personnel and management. The next day, Howard was called to Pohlman’s office and then directed to an executive conference room, where Pohlman was interrogating Carlos, who denied he had done anything wrong.
The lawsuit states that Pohlman took Carlos’ cell phone and threw it across the room. Carlos attempted to leave the conference room, but Pohlman slammed a door closed, forced the man against a conference room wall and demanded that Howard arrest the man.
Howard refused because he did not carry handcuffs and has “no legal authority to detain and/or arrest an accused employee who was merely attempting to leave the casino,” the suit states. Pohlman then grabbed Carlos by his shirt and ripped it off his body and did the same to his undershirt. Carlos screamed for help and eventually escaped, the suit states.
Zachary Wall, Howard’s Cherry Hill, Camden County-based, attorney, said it’s unclear why Pohlman became so angry about the situation. Wall said he is also unsure why Pohlman apparently did not recognize the scope of Howard’s responsibility.
“That is a good question and a question we hope to discover the answer to as the case moves forward,” Wall said when asked why his client believes Pohlman became so angry. “We’re looking forward to conducting the appropriate discovery and are confident that Mr. Howard’s claims will be substantiated.”
Howard reported what he calls Pohlman’s “reckless, dangerous and unlawful” behavior to Vice President of Operations Don Browne and Human Resources Director Barbara Hulsizer. The same day — Feb. 16 — Pohlman placed Howard on investigative suspension. When Howard returned from his suspension on Feb. 22, he was fired.
“Based on your failure to act and inaction as the director of security during the incident that occurred on Thursday, February 12, 2012, you are being terminated,” reads a line in the lawsuit that quotes the termination letter.
The employees involved in the alleged cell phone photo incident are not fully identified in the lawsuit. Carlos’ last name is withheld, and the female employee is not identified. However, Wall said their identities will be revealed as the case moves forward. They likely will be called as material witnesses, he said.
The lawsuit states that Howard contacted the Atlantic City Police Department about the incident, but was told the department would not respond unless Carlos filed a complaint.
Howard is also named in a separate suit filed by Trump Marina’s former national marketing director, Victoria Rothwell, but the legal actions appear to be unrelated. Rothwell claims she was improperly fired in December 2010 after voicing security concerns to Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Robert Griffin in Howard’s presence.
The Golden Nugget has not yet filed its response to Howard’s complaint. The case has been assigned to Judge Joseph Marczyk.