BERGEN SETTLES LAWSUIT WITH EMPLOYEE ABUSED BY BOSS

NorthJersey.com - 1/23/09

Bergen County will pay $2.75 million to a former parks employee who alleged in a lawsuit that top county executives failed to protect her from a sexually abusive boss.

I am happy with it, Dale Brown said about the settlement that she made public today in an interview at the office of her attorney, Rosemarie Arnold. I am shocked still.

Bergen County spokesman Brian Hague said the settlement was a financial decision.

Instead of proceeding with a lengthy and costly trial, the county made a financial decision to settle this lawsuit and sever employment with the plaintiff, he said.

The settlement includes Browns severance payment and attorney fees, he said. Brown will also be entitled to lifetime medical benefits, which Arnold estimated is worth more than $850,000.

Arnold said she was prepared to go to trial. But for the fact that the county paid Dale this large sum of money, plus her lifetime benefits, we would not have given up our right to go to trial, she said.

Brown, 51, had been a parks employee for more than 25 years until she resigned last week as part of the settlement. In 1993, she was working at Darlington County Park in Mahwah when a former colleague, Michael Rand, exposed himself to her and asked for oral sex, authorities said.

Rand was arrested and charged with criminal sexual contact, and was later admitted into a probationary program. The county rehired him several months later and assigned him to the same park, where Brown was a maintenance worker.

He was eventually promoted to her supervisor, and authorities said he forced Brown into oral sex several times until he was arrested again in 2005.

Rand, of Oakland, pleaded guilty two years ago to using his position to force Brown into oral sex, and was sentenced to one year of probation.

Brown later sued Rand, along with top county executives, alleging that they did nothing about her repeated complaints against Rand.

Arnold, Browns attorney, said that the settlement does not include her claim against Rand. The lawsuit against him is pending and is scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in Superior Court in Hackensack.

Hague, meanwhile, said the county will seek damages from Rand.

Mr. Rand should be held accountable for the financial impact of his criminal actions, he said.