On May 15, 2023, the City of Clifton (Passaic County, NJ) agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a female police officer’s sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. Three days later, the City agreed to pay $12,976.95 to a police lieutenant who was the alleged harasser provided that the lieutenant withdrew his appeal of disciplinary charges.

In her lawsuit, Jessenia Levy, a Hispanic female who has been employed by the Clifton Police Department since July 2016, alleged that she was subjected to inappropriate sexual advances by Clifton Lieutenant Darren Brodie during a March 8, 2018 Policeman’s Benevolent Association (PBA) convention in Atlantic City. According to the complaint, Brodie was Levy’s watch commander and supervised her shift.

Levy claimed that while playing craps at the Tropicana, she “felt a thrust on her rear end” which was done by Brodie. Later, Brodie allegedly told her that he didn’t like it when she took days off to see her boyfriend because “he took overtime to see her,” according to the lawsuit. Levy said that she heard Brodie tell another officer that “he paid $100 to sleep with his wife and would pay $500 for [Levy].” Afterwards, Brodie allegedly stood close to Levy, told her that he loved her and when Levy “realized that [Brodie] had attained an erection,” rubbed his penis on her knees and then asked her to buy him a drink, according to the lawsuit (Note below that the sexual contact allegations were not sustained by an Internal Affairs investigation.)

According to the lawsuit, other officers told Brodie to chill out. A while later, Levy claimed that she overheard him say “she’ll be happy when I put my d**k in her a**.”

Levy reported the incidents to a co-worker and later informed the Personnel Officer and the Clifton Police Department Chief. Thereafter, she told the Personnel Officer that she was uncomfortable and afraid to come to work. Levy claimed that she took medical leave until approximately May 1, 2018.

Upon her return to work, Levy said that she felt uncomfortable, isolated, and felt that “the atmosphere is different.” She claimed that she was required to endure a hostile work environment. She claimed that she was one of only three Hispanic women employed by the police department and that her experience reflected a larger culture within the Clifton Police Department that had persisted for years.

Brodie, who was represented by a lawyer other than the one that represented the City and the police department, filed a September 26, 2018 answer, with crossclaims, in which he denied Levy’s allegations except to admit that he attended the PBA convention.

An Internal Affairs Report sustained two charges against Brodie: a) for directing inappropriate sexual comments to a subordinate, noting that the offer to pay for sex was overheard by multiple witnesses and b) threatening to remove Levy from her vehicle assignment and kick another co-worker in the groin if they did not return to Gypsy Bar at the Borgata. The investigation, however, did not sustain a charge that Brodie inappropriately touched Levy or rubbed her with his penis. According to the report, nobody witnessed these alleged incidents and the casino security footage was either unavailable or of poor quality.

According to a transcript of Brodie’s September 25, 2019 deposition, he was suspended, for periods with both pay and without pay, from March 16, 2018 through to June 1, 2019 when he was demoted to the rank of sergeant and returned to work. He also had to undergo one-on-one sexual harassment training as part of his discipline, according to the transcript.

According to the City’s June 7, 2023 response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, Brodie has since been reinstated to his rank of lieutenant at an annual salary of $169,873 (base) and $197,310.30 (gross.) He has been employed by the Clifton Police Department since February 14, 2002.

In its settlement with Brodie, Clifton agreed to pay him $12,976.95 provided that he withdraw his crossclaims and agree to dismiss his civil service appeal he filed to contest the disciplinary action. In its settlement with Levy, the city agreed to pay her $80,000 in exchange for her dismissing her lawsuit.

The case is captioned Jessenia Levy v. City of Clifton, et al, Docket No. PAS-L-2078-18 and Levy’s attorney was Barry D. Epstein of Rochelle who was later substituted by Christopher L Musmanno of Denville. The lawsuit and both settlement agreements are on-line here.

On February 17, 2021, Superior Court Judge Bruno Mongiardo dismissed Levy’s claims against Clifton and its police department except for her retaliation claims.

None of Levy’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Brodie any of the Clifton officials. All that is known for sure is that Clifton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Levy $80,000 and Brodie $12,976.95 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the city’s decision to settle 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 settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]