By Donald WittkowskiA former Ocean City lifeguard who lost his job after he narrowly failed a swimming test has been awarded nearly $128,000 by a Superior Court jury in his age-discrimination lawsuit against the municipality.Paul McCracken claimed in his litigation that city officials “concocted a scheme” to get rid of older lifeguards by imposing new fitness requirements that made the running and swimming tests required of the Beach Patrol members more rigorous.McCracken, of Linwood, who was 52 at the time, passed the running test but fell 3 seconds short of meeting the swimming requirements. He was fired in 2011 after failing the swim test, according to the suit.In a statement Wednesday, city spokesman Doug Bergen denied McCracken’s allegations. Bergen said the Ocean City Beach Patrol has maintained “an impeccable safety record in more than a century of protecting the island’s residents and visitors.”“For obvious reasons, the city maintains that it is not good practice to employ ocean lifeguards who are unable to pass the swimming test,” Bergen said. “The same standard applies to all returning guards who work on the beach.”The suit alleged that McCracken and other older lifeguards were forced to retire or take a cut in their pension benefits after the city removed $53,000 from the Beach Patrol’s budget during a fiscal crisis in 2008. The budget cut intentionally targeted the veteran lifeguards, the ligation stated.Lifeguards who “did not bow to the pension pressure” faced tougher running and swimming requirements so they could not qualify for their jobs, according to the suit.However, Bergen said the city unified the fitness requirements so that all of the lifeguards were required to meet the same standards. Previously, the requirements were based on a “tiered” system in which lifeguards took different tests based on their rank.McCracken’s suit, though, asserted that the city imposed the new standards under the “guise” that they were supposed to be a uniform test for all lifeguards.“In fact, the test was a deliberate target of the older senior lifeguards with no other purpose than to facilitate their removal from the Beach Patrol or forcing them to retire,” the suit said.Bergen said McCracken passed the new re-qualification test in 2009, but took off from the Beach Patrol the following year due to an off-season injury. Bergen confirmed that McCracken passed the running test, but failed the swimming requirements when he tried to return in 2011. McCracken then “refused” opportunities to re-take the swimming test, so he was not invited back to work for the Beach Patrol, Bergen stated.McCracken’s lawsuit went to trial in Cape May County Superior Court in July. Siding in McCracken’s favor, the jury awarded him $127,998. The award was confirmed in an order signed by Superior Court Judge Noah Bronkesh on July 27.The award was first reported on a blog run by John Paff, a government watchdog who is a member of the New Jersey Libertarian Party. The Superior Court released a copy of the judge’s order on Wednesday, the day after Paff posted the document on his blog.In an interview Wednesday, McCracken’s attorneys said McCracken was pleased with the award and felt “vindicated” by the jury’s verdict.“It came out during the trial that they wanted to get rid of older lifeguards and used the (fitness) policy to do that,” said Drake Bearden Jr., an attorney with the law firm Costello & Mains of Mount Laurel, N.J.Kevin Costello, a partner with Costello & Mains, said it was clear McCracken was mistreated.“This wasn’t a fair shake,” Costello said.But Bergen said the city believes McCracken’s claims are frivolous and chose to pursue a jury trial rather than settling the case.“With all due respect to the judicial process, we disagree with this verdict. The city is currently evaluating its options,” Bergen said.City Council, at its meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, is scheduled to convene in closed session to discuss the McCracken litigation, according to the agenda. The litigation claimed that older lifeguards were targeted, but a city spokesman denies the allegations.
All aboard! Jonathan Brody and Scott Burkell will join the one-night-only concert of the Tony-winning musical Titanic at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Brody and Burkell are set to replace the previously announced Michael Mulheren and John Jellison as John B. Thayer and George Widener/Frank Carlson, respectively. Directed by Don Stephenson and featuring original cast members Michael Cerveris and Victoria Clark amongst others, Titanic will play February 17. Based on the real-life disaster of 1912, Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Tony-winning musical tells the story of the doomed ocean liner and the travelers aboard the so-called unsinkable ship. The show premiered on Broadway on April 23, 1997 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. Titanic’s score includes “Godspeed Titanic,” “The Largest Floating Object in the World” and “I Must Get On that Ship.” Michael Cerveris A separate revival directed by Thom Southerland is set to dock on Broadway this fall. View Comments The cast of Titanic will also include Brian d’Arcy James as Frederick Barrett, Martin Moran as Harold Bride, David Garrison as J. Bruce Ismay, Becky Ann Baker as Charlotte Cardoza, John Bolton as Charles Lightoller, Ryan Silverman as Charles Clarke, Ron Raines as Isidor Straus, Clarke Thorell as Jim Farrell and Jill Paice as Caroline Neville. Victoria Clark Star Files Brian d’Arcy James
The government’s baseline scenario is for economic growth to reach 2.3 percent this year with 2.9 million people losing their jobs. Under a worst-case scenario, however, the government believes the economy could contract by 0.4 percent while 5 million people lose their jobs.“With this kind of crisis, the government must share the burden,” said Febrio, who was previously macroeconomy and trade research head at the University of Indonesia’s Institute for Economic and Social Research (LPEM-UI) before his BKF appointment early this month.He called on banks and businesses to take aggressive action by rolling out funds to combat the meltdown.The government expects the pandemic to peak in the second quarter of this year, with economic growth contracting. Meanwhile, first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected at 1.1 percent, he added. “This projection may be wrong if the pandemic lasts longer,” Febrio said. “We will try to contain the virus and lessen the impact but the burden must be shared because the government will not be able to do this alone.”The government has set aside Rp 436.1 trillion for the stimulus, equivalent to 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP, for healthcare spending, social safety nets and business recovery programs so far focusing on manufacturing and tourism.The government will set aside Rp 150 trillion from the stimulus package to support small and medium firms affected by the COVID-19. Febrio did not provide further details as the government was currently formulating the stimulus.The government will also grant larger tax breaks to cover 11 business sectors similar to the incentives designed to allow manufacturing companies to weather the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including individual income tax exemptions, import tax deferrals and 30 percent corporate tax discounts.The 11 sectors are food, trade, electricity, oil and gas, mining and coal, forestry, tourism and the creative economy, telecommunications, logistics, transportation and construction, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Friday.“From an economic standpoint, the COVID-19 shock could damage businesses and cause widespread bankruptcies,” Sri Mulyani said. “We are trying to focus our stimulus to lessen the COVID-19 economic shock on citizens.”Meanwhile, chief economist at private lender Bank Central Asia (BCA) David Sumual said the government’s stimulus package was relatively small compared with other countries including neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, with stimulus packages reaching 12 percent and 17 percent of GDP, respectively.“We are hoping that the government can provide greater stimulus packages for small businesses and low-income households,” David told reporters during the same press briefing. “However, the government’s stimulus needs to be welcomed despite limited fiscal power.”Topics : The Finance Ministry’s fiscal policy agency (BKF) has voiced concerns that the government’s Rp 436.1 trillion (US$28.14 billion) stimulus may be insufficient to prevent economic meltdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.BKF head Febrio Nathan Kacaribu said on Monday that the government was considering whether to boost its stimulus spending as the existing stimulus packages may not be enough to counter the severe economic impacts of the pandemic.“We have doubts that the stimulus packages will be enough,” Febrio told reporters during a teleconferenced press briefing. “The government will anticipate this because there are some discouraging signs.”
The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has resorted to public donations to raise funds for the restoration of the dilapidated City Hall, and donation boxes will be placed at strategic locations for contributions.Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine said in a statement that persons will be able to contribute to the restoration activity since there has not been much progress in recent times.“We want persons to be able to contribute towards saving City Hall if they wish to…City Hall is an important piece of Guyana’s history and there has been lots of talk about rehabilitating the structure, but not much has materialised. I, however, would like to be the one to see City Hall get the attention that is needed so that the structure could be returned to its once prestigious state,” he said.Just last week, Narine gave members of the diplomatic community in Guyana a tour of the city’s dilapidated structures in a bid to solicit funds for City Hall’s restoration. In addition to City Hall, the diplomats also toured the Stabroek Market Wharf, which is on the verge of collapse. A few other sites which were toured included the Municipality Day Care Centre and the City Constabulary Training Centre.On July 8, the Council moved a motion to see the establishment of a Restoration Fund Committee to help fast track the rehabilitation process of the historic building. Although nine committee members were elected, Mayor Narine had informed that this committee will be extended to include other stakeholders such as the private sector, the Chambers of Commerce, the National Trust, the Department of Tourism, civil society, and others.Back in February, the European Union (EU) had handed over a document to the Mayor in relation to the restoration of City Hall’s deplorable structure and ways in which the space can be utilised to garner independent revenues.EU Ambassador to Guyana Jernej Videtic made the presentation to which he stated that some £280,000 was expended to craft the document, bringing new ideas to the restoration project. He noted that some plans include using the historic building as a tourism spot where it can be booked for special events to earn money.The M&CC had pegged the overhaul of the City Hall building at over $400 million. However, other sections have deteriorated further and the administration had opted to constructive a temporary building for staffers.