DID COUNTY AID ABUSER?

Publication: THE RECORD
Day: Thursday
Edition: All Editions
Byline: By KIBRET MARKOS, STAFF WRITER
Date: 06/30/2005
Page: A01
Section: NEWS
Source: North Jersey Media Group

Did county aid abuser?

Worker to sue after boss's arrest

Dale Karen Brown of Midland Park had been a maintenance worker for five years at Darlington County Park in Mahwah when a colleague exposed himself and asked her to have oral sex in 1993.

The colleague, Michael Rand of Oakland, was suspended from his job and charged with sexual misconduct.

Six months later, Bergen County officials rehired Rand, assigned him to the same park, and gave him a promotion - making him Brown's supervisor.

"I was petrified," said Brown.

This month, authorities again arrested Rand on charges of sexually abusing Brown, a 48-year-old single woman who suffers from learning disabilities.

On Wednesday, her attorney notified the county that she will file a lawsuit seeking damages for irresponsible hiring.

"It's lunacy what happened in this case," said the attorney, Rosemarie Arnold. "This is an admitted sex offender who gets promoted to be the victim's supervisor. She is a meek, defenseless woman who didn't know what to do."

Bergen County Personnel Director Ralph Kornfeld - who held the same position in 1993 when Rand was rehired and promoted - did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

County spokeswoman Erin Gold said no county officials would comment because the case is pending.

Wolfgang Albrecht, who was the parks director and Rand's supervisor in 1993, said Rand's case was handled by Kornfeld.

"We are not at liberty to discuss a personnel matter," said Albrecht, who left the county in 2003.

Rand, 49, did not return phone calls Wednesday to his Skyline Drive home in Oakland.

Rand was released on $150,000 bail June 20 from the Bergen County Jail. He has been suspended from his job without pay since his arrest on June 2, said Gold, the county spokeswoman.

Rand and Brown began working at the Mahwah park about the same time in 1987. Rand was a mechanic, and Brown started as a cleaner at the park's swimming pool.

After the 1993 incident, Rand was arrested and charged with criminal sexual contact. He later was placed in a Pretrial Intervention program, a strict form of probation available to some first-time offenders. A participant who successfully completes the program will have no criminal record.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said Rand applied for an early termination of the program so he could return to his job.

A judge in Hackensack granted the application, and Rand was rehired by the county, Molinelli said. He was then assigned to the same park where Brown worked, the prosecutor said.

Brown said Rand apologized to her for his actions after he got back to work and asked that they "forget everything that happened."

"But I told him I would rather not talk to him," she said during an interview in Arnold's Fort Lee office on Wednesday.

Rand was later promoted to park supervisor and "things just got worse and worse," she said.

Brown said she complained to her supervisors that she was worried about working for Rand.

"Nobody would listen," she said. "Nobody would help me."

Several times over the next eight years, Rand forced Brown to have oral sex, said Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Patricia Baglivi.

The incidents occurred in basements, Brown said. Rand also shoved her against a wall and kissed her in storage rooms, she said.

Brown said she didn't get any promotions in her 17 years of employment and still cleans toilets at the park.

In early 2003, she said, she made another complaint to Kornfeld and asked to be transferred to another job where she would not have to report to Rand.

In a letter dated February 7, 2003, Kornfeld told her he could not open an investigation and couldn't transfer her.

Baglivi said the abuse continued until Rand was arrested this month.

Investigations began when another employee complained of sexual harassment and contacted authorities, said Arnold, Brown's attorney.

Asked why she stayed on the job for so long, Brown said: "I have no other skills. I needed the job and I needed the benefits."

The elder of two daughters, Brown was born in Paterson and raised in Midland Park.

When she was 18, she suffered a brain injury in a car accident.

As a result, she said, she never went to college and instead studied arts through a high school program.

"I still do it on the side, but you can't make a living out of it," said Brown, who agreed to be identified and photographed for this story.

Arnold said Rand used his position as supervisor to exploit a woman who clung to her job because of her disabilities and her need to save for her pension.

He also warned her not to tell anyone about the assaults, the attorney said.

"He had her convinced that no one was going to believe her," Arnold said.

Rand is charged with second-degree sexual assault, official misconduct, aggravated assault and criminal sexual contact. Convictions on such charges carry prison terms of up 10 years.

The case will be presented to a grand jury by the end of the summer, Molinelli said.