BELMAR — After being accused of harassing an employee with autism, Michael Campbell is retiring as supervisor of Belmar’s public works department, Borough Administrator Edward Kirschenbaum Sr. said Monday.
Mr. Kirschenbaum said the accusations, made by the family of public works employee Colton Hines, were a personnel matter that has been placed “in the hands of our attorney.” Asked whether Mr. Campbell had resigned, Mr. Kirschenbaum said, “he is actually retiring.” He has been a borough employee for 13 years.
Mr. Campbell could not be reached for comment.
According to his family, Mr. Hines, 22, who has autism, was “verbally abused by Mr. Campbell in an incident last week,” an allegation that had also surfaced in an online blog. Colton’s father, Fran Hines, told The Coast Star that his family is retaining an attorney, Richard Shaklee, of McLaughlin Stauffer & Shaklee in New York, and is contemplating legal action “against the Borough of Belmar for the way Colton was treated.”
“We are sure he was verbally assaulted, cursed out and screamed at, and we have several corroborating stories,” said Mr. Hines, who is the borough’s director of emergency medical services.
Colton has been a full-time employee of the borough’s DPW department for the past year, Fran Hines said, adding that his son now has a “little bit of fear about going back” to work.
“My main concern is that he is my son and we are working to get him the help that he needs to deal with what happened to him,” he added.
The incident, according to the elder Mr. Hines, occurred Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 23, at the borough’s municipal complex. Reports of it spread via social media after an unsigned comment appeared on the blog Common Sense for Belmar, from someone who claimed to have “witnessed [Mr. Campbell] screaming and cursing at one of his DPW employees” while several others workers watched.
The Hines family operates Colton and Friends — a foundation for Autism, which provides support for the families of children with special needs, in schools and through activities that include an annual Beach Bash for parents and children.
A post on the group’s Facebook page states “We want to let our followers know, our family’s life work is to protect and serve our special needs friends. It recently came to our attention that our son, Colton, has been the target of a bully at work for some time, and it came to a head last week, when his bullying and harassment of Colton was witnessed and reported. Unfortunately, this bullying is being done by his boss, a department head at the Borough of Belmar; someone we trusted.”
“Please know, that while we’re taking care of Colton at this trying time, we are simultaneously working with our attorney and other outside agencies to make sure there are dire consequences for those who did what was done to Colton.”
As of Tuesday, Fran Hines said, no one from the borough had reached out to apologize for the incident.
“This kid and everyone over there deserve a workplace that is safe so that they don’t have to be afraid,” he said, “a safe place especially for handicapped kids but anyone over there. You deserve to be able to go to work and not be nervous about your boss.”
This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.
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