Law & Justice

Lawsuit Paints Picture of Sleaze and Discrimination in Roselle DPW

91078fac80e259fb47d2_Roselle_DPW.jpg
Credits: Kathy Lloyd
91078fac80e259fb47d2_Roselle_DPW.jpg

ROSELLE, NJ – The borough Department of Public Works (DPW) is a workplace where trucks are strewn with pornography, where men repeatedly engage in sexual harassment, where raunchy, offensive and racist behavior is tolerated and where complaints result in retaliation, says the DPW’s only white woman employee in a new lawsuit.

In the state Superior Court complaint, the woman, Celeste Sitarski, details numerous examples of lascivious, sexually inappropriate and abusive behavior by her male colleagues. The lawsuit names as defendants the borough, the DPW, DPW Superintendent George Phipps, DPW Supervisor Louis Williams  and DPW Supervisor Duane Patterson.

Williams, contacted today, said “most of” Sitarski’s allegations are not true. "I don’t seem to understand Ms. Sitarski,” he said. “All I ever did was try to help her as much as possible. Most of her claims are false. I am kind of in shock.”

Sign Up for E-News

Sitarski began working for the DPW in January 2012 and was its only white woman employee, says the complaint. She says her “disgust” with the working conditions began early: “In the course of plaintiff’s employment as a laborer, she was required to ride in the borough’s trucks,” says the lawsuit. “From the very beginning … plaintiff noticed many pornographic magazines kept in several borough trucks.”

She says the magazines were not hidden, contending they were “on the dashboard, truck seats, under the seats and were routinely in plain sight” in what “amounted to a pornographic library on several trucks.”

Sitarski says she was “appalled” by the situation and “communicated her disgust” to her DPW supervisors, who did nothing about it.

But the existence of the dirty magazines was the tip of the iceberg, according to Sitarski. The 21-page lawsuit cites numerous examples of lewdness, harassment and intimidation by Sitarski’s male co-workers, including exposure of genitalia, repeated requests of Sitarski that she engage in sex, comments by one worker who said he wanted to “taste” Sitarski’s daughter, threats to Sitarski’s life and scatological insults that included references to Sitarski’s race.

Sitarski contends one of her co-workers, “would openly sexually harass” her. She says the man asked her for dates, told her he was in love with her, said she made his heart beat, promised to lose weight for her, changed his schedule to be with her, referred to himself in texts as “Big Daddy” and told her he wanted to have sex with her, left hearts and love letters on her truck, suggested sharing her with his cousin and more.

The lawsuit says two of Sitarski’s colleagues, in January 2015, “openly made explicit comments about plantiff’s daughter,” mentioned seeing her while she waited for the bus in the morning and commented about “how pretty she was, wondered how old she was, wanted to marry her and wanted to ‘break her in,’” says the complaint.

In another instance, a co-worker tried to “corner” Sitarski in the DPW locker room “and requested that she allow him to come to plaintiff’s house so that he can make her feel good,” says the lawsuit. 

The locker room is mentioned elsewhere in the complaint, including an instance where DPW workers “watched and laughed hysterically” while another one “gesturing, bent down and was shooting lotion form a bottle between his legs … while making sounds,” according to Sitarski.

She contends the harassment went beyond the lewd behavior and included blatantly unfair treatment, discrimination and unwarranted reprimands. “Borough refused to fully investigate several incidents where a proper investigation would have easily established plaintiff’s compliance with borough policies,” says the complaint. “Notwithstanding this fact, other African American male drivers that actually violated borough policies were not reprimanded.” 

Sitarski says she complained about the hostile work environment but the borough “refused and failed to remedy the harassment” taking place. “Moreover, every time she complained, she was subjected to additional reprimands and rigorous workload,” says the lawsuit.

Filed by Conshohocken, P.A. lawyer Obinna Abara, the lawsuit asserts Sitarski was subjected to sexual harassment, gender discrimination, race discrimination, retaliatory/discriminatory reassignment and retaliation. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Abara added to the complaint a demand that defendants “preserve all physical and electronic information” pertaining to Sitarski’s employment, warning that “failure to do so will result in separate claims for spoliation of evidence.”

Williams contended Sitarski’s claims are news to him.

“This was not ever brought to my attention,” he insisted. “I can’t understand what this is about. Maybe it’s money or something. Me and the other supervisors are in shock. I feel like it was blown out of proportion and now we feel like we are walking on eggshells. All I know is that nothing I did was wrong."

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Fanwood Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Mobile Meals of Westfield

April 22, 2018

FANWOOD, NJ  — At the Fanwood Borough Council meeting on Monday, April 16, Mayor Colleen Mahr read a resolution acknowledging Mobile Meals' 50th anniversary and presented it to volunteers Nancy Otchy and Josephine Walsh.

Mobile Meals, based in Westfield, delivers meals to thousands of area residents every day. The organization passed its one millionth meal delivery several ...

2018 Municipal Budget is on Collision Course with Principles of Financial Soundness & Stability

April 18, 2018

Having chaired the town council’s finance committee in the recent past, I appreciate the hard work that goes into developing a municipal budget for a town as large and dynamic as Westfield. But as I have expressed publicly and also to the mayor and my council colleagues, I do not support the adoption of Westfield’s 2018 municipal budget. Although the budget contains much that I ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, April 24, 4:00 PM

Westfield Memorial Library, Westfield

Westfield Memorial Library Spring Book Sale

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_5307a8f625870288b3e9_best_79fa8c672d731919f994_tap_building

Tue, April 24, 7:00 PM

Westfield Municipal Building, Westfield

Westfield Town Council Meeting

Government

Tue, April 24, 7:30 PM

Westfield

Westfield Board of Education Meeting

Education

Westfield Police Blotter: Residence Burglarized & More

April 18, 2018

April 11, 2018 10:23 a.m.

Raymond Rodgers, 56, of Westfield, NJ was arrested in the area of E. Broad Street. Rodgers was arrested pursuant to an unrelated traffic investigation. Rogers was transported to Westfield Police HQ without incident. At WPD HQ, Rodgers was processed and released after posting the full bail amount ($250). Rodgers was arrested on the strength of an outstanding Westfield ...

Imagine Leadership Council Meets

April 23, 2018

Imagine Leadership Council members gathered for breakfast and strategizing at Imagine Wednesday morning, April 18.

“We are so grateful for this stellar and caring leadership team,” said Mary Robinson, Imagine Executive Director. “They all serve as wonderful Ambassadors for Imagine under the leadership of Mayor Paul Mirabelli of Mountainside who Chairs the ...

18 Homes Sold April 15 to April 22, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Cranford, Fanwood & Mountainside

Eighteen homes sold the week of April 15 to April 22, 2018, in Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside, Cranford and Westfield:*

TOWN   ADDRESS                            ...

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse

By LIZ KEILL

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...

Edison Students Participate in Beta Test of Google Augmented Reality App

Students and teachers at Edison Intermediate School participated in a recent beta test of a Google application that uses augmented reality technology to explore the inner workings of plant cells, the functions and framework of the human skeletal system, and other educational subjects.

Edison Media Specialist Andrew Cusumano arranged for a Google representative to visit the school on April 9 to ...

Why We Keep Kosher

Why We Keep Kosher

This week's parshah, Shemini, introduces the Torah's dietary laws. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves to be kosher, fish need fins and scales, and a list of forbidden fowl is enumerated.

To those of us in Jewish education, it is a continuing source of disappointment that so many Jews still believe the kosher laws to be outdated.

Hellenic Therapy Center

April 13, 2018

Dropping Off Our Kids At College – Learning How To Adjust

Hellenic Therapy Center

 

Whether your kid is a freshman entering college for the first time or returning back to college, there are so many emotions we experience as parents.  There are differences in a parent’s reaction to the departure of a first child, an only child or even the last child.  Feelings ...

Obituaries

Oct 21, 1944 - Apr 14, 2018
Kathleen A. Hertell passed away peacefully with family at her bedside on April 14, 2018. Loving ...
Read more

‘A Sad Day for Paterson’ as Police Officer Loses Life in Car Crash

April 23, 2018

PATERSON, NJ — On what Paterson Superior Officers Association President Mason Maher called “a sad day for Paterson,” a city police officer lost his life on Sunday after he was involved in a motor vehicle collision while on duty.

Several sources familiar with Sunday’s tragic accident have identified the fallen officer as Tamby Yagan, a 13-year veteran of the ...