By Donald Wittkowski
Ocean City agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that a former beach tag director had a sexual relationship with a then-teenage girl under his supervision, according to court documents posted online.
City spokesman Doug Bergen declined to comment Monday on the settlement, which was filed in October and first made public Saturday by the legal blog NJ Civil Settlements. Michael Testa and Justin White, Vineland attorneys who represented the plaintiff, could not be reached for comment Monday.
The suit alleged that Charles Cusack, a retired Ocean City police officer who later became the director of beach fee operations, had an ongoing sexual relationship with a female beach tag inspector, who was then 17, in the summer of 2012. Ocean City was also named in the litigation.
As part of the settlement, the city admitted no liability. Both sides also agreed not to defame or make any disparaging statements about each other, a copy of the settlement showed.
In a related criminal case, Cusack was sentenced in 2016 to five years of probation and had to register as a sex offender under the terms of a plea bargain agreement in state Superior Court. The plea agreement allowed him to avoid jail.
During his sentencing in March 2016, a tearful Cusack told the court that his life had been ruined because of his poor judgment.
“The shame I carry with me has been overwhelming at times,” he said then.
Cusack served for 25 years in the Ocean City Police Department before retiring in May 2011. He was in his second season as director of the city’s beach tag program when he was arrested in 2012 for having a sexual relationship with the girl.
The lawsuit alleged Cusack first began making contact with the girl when she was a student at Ocean City High School and he was serving as a school security official. At the school, he engaged in “increasingly inappropriate behavior,” including flirting with the girl and complimenting her body, according to the litigation.
Later, Cusack helped the girl land a summer job with the city’s beach fee office, and then used his position of authority to sway her into a sexual relationship, the suit said. He was more than 30 years older than the girl.
In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16. But Cusack was charged under a provision in state law that makes it illegal for a person to have sex with someone over whom he or she has supervisory authority when an alleged victim is 16 or 17 years old.