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Another Community Development Department Lawsuit: Former UEZ Official Claims Racial Bias

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PATERSON, NJ – The former head of Paterson’s Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) has filed a lawsuit accusing city officials of discriminating against her because she’s white.

The lawsuit is the third filed against the city this year by current or former employees of the Community Development department. Previous lawsuits were filed by Brian Sweeney, who had served as the city’s economic development director, and by Montaha Deeb, who had been a fiscal analyst in the department. Sweeney and Deeb both were demoted from those positions.

Janice Northrop, who resigned from her municipal job last December, says in her lawsuit that Mayor Jeffrey Jones’ administration denied her a promotion that the previous mayor had authorized for her, rejected her requests for vacation and personal days, and undermined her authority by not inviting her to important public events like a photo opportunity with a Chinese investment delegation.

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“Not only did the exclusion underscore the mayor’s racial animosity toward plaintiff, it served to undermine plaintiff’s authority with her staff,’’ says the lawsuit.

Northrop’s lawsuit does not cite any incidents in which racial slurs were used. The suit simply points out that Northrop is white, while the mayor and the two officials who oversaw Northup’s department are black.

The lawsuit also says that Northrop was not invited to a press event commemorating the creation of the new national park at the Great Falls, while one of Northrup’s subordinates, Cynthia Harris, an African-American who is married to the head of the local NAACP chapter, was asked to attend.

"The lawsuit will be handled in the ordinary course,'' said City Business Administrator Charles Thomas. "Since it involves matters of personnel, I can not comment any further."

Northrop was hired as Paterson’s assistant to the UEZ Coordinator in 2000 while Martin Barnes was mayor, the lawsuit says. In 2002, she was made assistant director of economic development and put in charge of the UEZ, which left her responsible for millions of dollars in projects, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit says Northrop had been highly rated in all her job evaluations prior to the Jones administration. She claims the fact that she was not invited to interview for the economic development director’s job after Jones became mayor serves as evidence of the administration’s bias. [Sweeney, who Jones originally hired for the job, is white.]

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