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NJ Civil Settlements

Stratford quietly paid out $125,000 to settle DPW worker’s sexual harassment lawsuit.

On December, 8, 2017, Stratford Borough (Camden County) agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by former Department of Public Works employee who claimed that the former Borough Clerk would grab his rear end, ask him whether he was wearing a thong and say “Hubba hubba hubba.”

In his lawsuit, Andrew Marano claimed that former Borough Clerk John Keenan had been sexually harassing him and other employees “for years.”  Marano’s lawsuit, which was filed on April 22, 2016, claimed that Keenan would repeatedly comment on “how tan he was,” rub his shoulders and back while they were in Borough Hall and sometimes “grab or rub Marano’s rear end.” 

According to the lawsuit, Keenan, who reportedly oversaw the DPW, asked Marano who was soaked after putting up a clock in the rain, to “take his jeans off and wear a yellow thong for the rest of the day.”  According to Marano, Keenan “frequently made it known that he was homosexual” and “would text Marano while he was on vacation and ask Marano if he was ‘at the nude beach’ [and] to take pictures for him.”

Marano claimed that Stratford had no meaningful sexual harassment policy and that “Keenan would frequently hire people to whom he was sexually attracted, even if they were not qualified or otherwise prohibited from working for Stratford.”  Marano’s lawsuit alleged that one of Keenan’s favored hirees “would work during the summer with just a vest, without a shirt underneath” and said that “If I blow him [Keenan], he’ll get me a motorcycle.”  According to the lawsuit, the hiree soon ended up owning a motorcycle shop.  Marano claimed that Keenan’s sexual harassment compelled him to go on a leave of absence and ultimately lose his job.

Marano’s suit also claims that Keenan retaliated against him after he complained that Keenan allegedly stole “hundreds of pounds of metal from Stratford.”

The lawsuit is is captioned Andrew Marano v. Borough of Stratford, et al, Docket No. CAM-L-1577-16 and Marano’s attorney is Leo B. Dubler III of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from disclosing the settlement’s terms to others, including the media.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public’s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of the the lawsuit’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Stratford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Marano $125,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project