Friday, May 08, 2009

Peeping Tom Atlantic City Surveillance Supervisor Loses Bid to Get His Casino Job Back

ATLANTIC CITY - A former casino surveillance supervisor who was accused - then cleared - on charges that he used his security cameras to leer at women will not be getting his job back.

A New Jersey appeals court ruled Thursday that Caesars Atlantic City had every right to fire Robert Swan, even though he was exonerated of wrongdoing in a highly publicized casino spying case.

"Caesars apparently made a business decision to terminate all of the at-will employees who were implicated in the scandalous allegations of using surveillance equipment to peer at selected portions of the anatomy of female patrons and casino workers, which is within the employer's power to do," the court concluded in a 23-page opinion.

Swan was among four surveillance officers who allegedly trained their cameras on women's breasts and buttocks while working the graveyard shift in October 2004. While the other three were disciplined by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, the panel ultimately found no evidence that Swan violated any gaming regulations while performing his surveillance duties.

Caesars fired all four of the surveillance workers. Swan filed a lawsuit against the casino in 2006 claiming he was wrongfully terminated. Swan also contended Caesars created the false impression that he was "a pervert who abused his position as a surveillance officer and used surveillance cameras to leer at and stalk females on the casino floor."

Rejecting Swan's arguments, the appeals court ruled that Caesars had the authority to fire him with or without cause. Russell L. Lichtenstein, a Caesars attorney, said the casino conducted its own investigation of the spying allegations and found that Swan had improperly used the surveillance cameras.

"It was pretty clear that Swan violated a number of internal policies and procedures specifically designed to prevent this type of thing," Lichtenstein said.

A footnote in the appeals ruling quoted a former Caesars surveillance officer as saying that Swan allegedly used the cameras to zoom in on women, made copies of pornographic videotapes while at work and occasionally would fall asleep on duty.

Neither Swan nor his Philadelphia attorney, Richard M. Golomb, returned messages seeking comment.

In September 2005, Caesars agreed to pay a $185,000 fine to the Casino Control Commission to settle regulatory violations in the spying case involving Swan and his co-workers. Caesars also paid an $80,000 fine in 2004 in another case involving two other surveillance officers who trained their cameras on women's low-cut necklines.

Lichtenstein could not say whether Caesars tightened its policies in response to the video spying, but he did note that surveillance officers are required to sign rules that bar them from improperly using the security cameras. Previously, Caesars said it has a "zero-tolerance policy" toward any inappropriate conduct in the surveillance department.

Hidden in the ceiling of every casino hotel, the surveillance cameras are supposed to be used to surreptitiously monitor the gaming floor and other sensitive areas for cheating, theft and other crimes.