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NJ Civil Settlements

Buena Vista paid out $25,000 to former DPW Director. The settlement extinguished the Director’s sexual harassment complaint without mentioning it.

On February 13, 2017, the Township of Buena Vista (Atlantic County) entered into a settlement agreement under which its Public Works Director received $25,000.  Even though the settlement agreement recites a “restructuring” that eliminated the the full-time DPW Director position, it also extinguished (but does not mention) a civil rights claim in which the DPW Director accused the Township Administrator of sexual harassment.

In his administrative complaint filed with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, former DPW Director Richard P. Calareso claimed that Township Administrator Kenia Nunez-Acuna “made unwelcomed direct physical contact with him” on December 30, 2016.  According to the complaint, Nunez-Acuna “asked him for hug at least seven times” and “chased after him and put her arm under his arm to make it appear as if the two were walking arm in arm.”  Calaruso also claimed that Nunez-Acuna “forcibly pushed her breast against [him] three times.”

The case is captioned Calareso v. Township of Buena Vista, Civil Rights Docket No. EA05UB-663054 and Calareso’s attorney was the Law Offices of Jacobs & Barbone of Atlantic City.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the the complaint’s allegations have been proven or disproven in before any tribunal. 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 Buena Vista or its insurer, for whatever reason, paid Calareso $25,000. Perhaps the defendants’ decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of contesting what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the Township wanted to avoid being embarrassed at a hearing. This is the problem when cases resolve before they are adjudicated–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