ELIZABETH, NJ — The Union County freeholders have approved a $110,000 settlement for a Black Union County corrections officer, who in a lawsuit claims she was attacked by another guard, subjected to sexual harassment and then targeted for investigation when she reported the alleged misconduct.
The freeholders approved the settlement for Wadlyne Stelus on Sept. 10, following a closed session during which their attorney briefed them on the litigation. Stelus’ attorney told TAPinto that his client intends to return to work. Court records show the parties on Tuesday formally agreed to settle a Superior Court lawsuit connected to the matter.
“My client is pleased with the outcome of the case,” said attorney Ray Hamlin. “The fact that she will be able to return and serve the good people of Union County is what she fought so hard to do. She looks forward to some sense of normalcy knowing that this matter is now behind her.”
The settlement agreement approved unanimously by the freeholders will have the county pay $110,000.62 in connection with the matter, according the resolution released this week through a request under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.
While the resolution authorizing the settlement lists a complaint filed with New Jersey’s Office of Administrative Law, Hamlin told TAPinto Westfield that the settlement is also connected to his client’s lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Elizabeth.
“The entire matter is resolved as to Ms. Stelus,” he said.
In the complaint filed in the lawsuit, Stelus claims that she was physically attacked by fellow corrections officer Deandra Wallace on Oct. 14, 2017 — an attack that was captured on video. The lawsuit says, however, that her superior advised her not to prepare a written report of the incident.
“Despite the fact that the attack was captured on camera and had been viewed, the information contained thereon was somehow not available for viewing,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit further claims that Stelus was subjected to various forms of sexual harassment “that included being shown fake penises with different colors.” An officer additionally showed Stelus photographs of the fake penises, which were contained on the cell phone, according to the complaint.
“This officer also indicated that she could turn females out and that ‘these babies make woman leave men,’” the lawsuit states.
The Corrections Department, according to the lawsuit, determined that Stelus’ allegations were not founded. The lawsuit further claims that when Stelus documented the sexual harassment and assault in a formal report, her superiors removed her as a control center officer and in 2018 targeted her with an investigation.
“On or about January 3, 2018, plaintiff was targeted and made the subject of an investigation while her complaint of discrimination was ignored,” the lawsuit says.
The investigation found her guilty of “referring to officer Wallace as a ‘bitch,’’’ according to the suit.
In March 2018, Stelus lodged another complaint alleging “continuing harassment and threats by Officer Wallace.”
The lawsuit claims that the Corrections Department assigned her to “8B Pod, despite the fact that other staff and officers senior to plaintiff had knowledge that an inmate who made threats against plaintiff was housed in that very area.”
That same day, the lawsuit says, Stelus was suspended without pay pending a recommendation that she be fired. The suspension lasted from Sept. 10, 2018 through March 9, 2019 at which time she reinstated.
“There was no justification for plaintiff’s suspension without pay and plaintiff’s reinstatement was confirmation that she was not and should have never been deemed an immediate threat or otherwise to anyone,” the lawsuit says.
The freeholders’ resolution states that the settlement is “in the best interest of the county of Union.”
Sebastian D’Elia, spokesman for the county, confirmed the matter is complete.
“The disciplinary matter has been settled,” D’Elia said.
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