Tuesday, January 24, 2006
By KIBRET MARKOS
A former Bergen County park supervisor admitted in court Monday that he used his official position to force a female employee into oral sex.
Michael Rand, 50, of Oakland said he threatened to make Dale Karen Brown work in harsh conditions and take away her privileges if she didn't submit to his demands.
"Using your position and your status, did you make threats to her to perform oral sex?" his lawyer, Dennis Calo, asked at the plea hearing in state Superior Court in Hackensack.
"Yes," Rand replied.
Rand, who has been free on $150,000 bail since his arrest seven months ago, pleaded guilty to third-degree official misconduct.
Although a third-degree conviction carries a maximum of five years in prison, prosecutors recommended that Rand receive one year's probation when he is sentenced March 10.
Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said the decision was made because of "proof issues."
"I am satisfied that we have a case against Mr. Rand, but based upon the proof that we had, this was the fairest outcome," he said.
He declined to elaborate, saying the case is technically pending until Rand is sentenced.
Rand was originally charged with second-degree official misconduct, second-degree sexual assault and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. He could have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted at a trial.
It wasn't clear Monday how Rand - who previously had been arrested for sexual misconduct against the same victim - was offered a deal that doesn't carry a prison or jail term despite it being a second offense.
Although Rand was forced to give up his county job as part of the plea, the agreement doesn't prevent him from seeking public employment in the future.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Patricia Baglivi noted during the hearing that Brown, of Midland Park, had consented to the plea agreement. However, Baglivi declined comment on what factors were considered in reaching the deal.
Prosecutor John L. Molinelli did not return phone calls seeking clarification.
Brown, 48, who suffers from learning disabilities, declined to comment Monday. She has agreed to be identified by name.
Her lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, said Brown consented to the plea because she wanted only that Rand admit his wrongdoing.
"For the past six months, Rand has been claiming that the sexual acts were consensual," Arnold said. "He has now finally admitted that he threatened her and forced her to do these things."
Rand's guilty plea strengthens a civil lawsuit filed by Brown that accuses Bergen County of improperly hiring and promoting Rand despite his previous encounter with the same victim. Arnold filed the suit on Brown's behalf following Monday's plea hearing.
Rand was first arrested in 1993, when he and Brown worked at Darlington County Park in Mahwah. He was accused of exposing himself to Brown and asking for oral sex, which she refused.
Rand was charged with criminal sexual contact and admitted into Pretrial Intervention, a probationary program offered to some first-time offenders. A participant who completes the program will have no criminal record.
Months later, Rand was rehired by the county and assigned to the same park where Brown was a maintenance worker. He was then promoted to become her supervisor, after which he forced Brown into oral sex several times before he was arrested last June.
"For the first time in 13 years, [Brown] is going to go to sleep satisfied," said Arnold. "After 11 years of being forced to perform sexual acts on her boss, she was finally vindicated."
Rand's admission that he coerced Brown - and did so in his capacity as an employee of the county - supports a key allegation in the lawsuit against the county, Arnold said.
Arnold alleges in the lawsuit that Rand used his position to coerce Brown and that county officials did nothing to stop him despite knowing what was going on.
"This plea is Step One in the vindication process," Arnold said. "The lawsuit is Step Two."
Bergen County spokesman Brian Hague denied that county administrators knew about Rand's actions.
"The county wasn't aware of what was going on," he said Monday. "As soon as we found out, we took immediate action."
Rand, who had been suspended without pay since his arrest, submitted his resignation last week, Hague said.