Administrator sues two councilmen and borough for discrimination

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Bradley Beach Borough Hall. FILE PHOTO

BRADLEY BEACH — Borough Administrator Kelly Barrett has filed a lawsuit accusing two of the municipality’s councilmen with discrimination, claiming they engaged in “hostile and harassing conduct” aimed at driving her from office.

The targets, council members Randy Bonnell and John Weber, voted against Ms. Barrett’s appointment as borough administrator in 2017. The appointment was approved 3-2.

According to her suit, filed on Aug. 19, Ms. Barrett emailed Mayor Gary Engelstad on Dec. 3, 2018, saying that she was being “harassed directly and indirectly” by both councilmen and that she perceived it was due to the governing body not selecting a “younger male candidate” as borough administrator.

Reached Friday, both councilmen declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Court documents, filed Aug. 19 by Ms. Barrett’s attorney, Nicole Crismale of the Law Offices of Peter C. Lucas, of Oakhurst, allege that “shortly following Ms. Barrett’s appointment, Mr. Bonnell “engaged in a course of hostile and harassing conduct” designed to undermine her authority as borough administrator.

The actions included Mr. Bonnell communicating “Ms. Barrett’s personal relationship with Borough of Bradley Beach Police Chief Leonard Guida” to The Coast Star. It cites a June 22, 2017 news story in which Mr. Bonnell was quoted as stating that Ms. Barrett had previously disclosed the relationship to explain her recusal, as municipal clerk, from involvement with the renewal of Mr. Guida’s contract as police chief. He further said it posed a conflict of interest with her duties as borough administrator.

The suit also alleges that Mr. Bonnell “exhibited overbearing behavior effectively micromanaging Ms. Barrett” by “inundating her with emails on an almost daily basis related to routine day-to-day operations and her job performance.”

It also alleges that Mr. Weber sought to undermine Mr. Barrett’s position as borough administrator, “given that a male was not placed in that position.” 

The suit includes multiple counts of discrimination on the basis of sex and creating a hostile work environment against both councilmen, the borough, and up to 10 “John Does” and seeks damages as well as “any further relief as the court may deem just and equitable.” 

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