Friday, April 7, 2006
By SCOTT FALLON
For almost a year, Bergen County officials have denied they knew a Parks Department supervisor was either sexually harassing or abusing a subordinate who suffers from a brain injury.
But the victim, Dale Karen Brown, repeatedly asked the county parks director in the summer of 2004 for a transfer because of continued sexual harassment from her boss, Michael Rand, according to letters obtained by The Record.
Rand was arrested a year later on charges that he forced Brown to perform oral sex on him for years. He admitted to the abuse in state Superior Court in January.
The three letters sent in June, July and August of 2004 from Brown to Parks Director Frank DeBari detail problems she had with Rand, including fending off sexual advances. However, Brown never wrote that she was being sexually assaulted or abused by Rand.
County officials would not comment Thursday on whether DeBari received the letters.
County Counsel Esther Suarez received the letters on March 15 in a file from the county prosecutors' criminal investigation, said Brian Hague, a county spokesman. He said she immediately began an internal investigation, which is still under way.
One letter, dated Aug. 10, 2004, was carbon-copied to County Executive Dennis McNerney. Hague said Suarez and other staff members could not find a copy of that letter in records at the county executive's office. He said all letters sent to McNerney are scanned or filed.
County officials have said repeatedly that they were not aware of what was going on prior to Rand's arrest in June 2005.
"We're not retracting our statement," Hague said. "We took action when we knew the facts."
Rand was immediately suspended without pay from his $49,355 job as manager of Darlington County Park in Mahwah after the arrest. He submitted his resignation a week before his guilty plea to a charge of official misconduct. He was placed on probation.
Hague said he could not comment any further because the county is being sued by Brown.
The first letter was sent to DeBari on June 10, 2004. In it, Brown asked for "nice working conditions" in part because Rand continually harassed her.
The two had a long history. Rand was first arrested in 1993 while he and Brown, of Midland Park, worked together at Darlington. He was charged with criminal sexual contact against Brown and admitted into Pretrial Intervention, a probationary program offered to some first-time offenders.
Months later, Rand was rehired by the county and assigned to the same park where Brown worked. He was eventually promoted to become her supervisor under the previous county administration.
"His retaliation toward me has been constant for 10 years," Brown wrote in the June 2004 letter. "Much of it was of a sexual nature, and each time he threatened that he would see to it that I would lose my job if I told anyone."
In a July 6, 2004, letter, she asked DeBari to support her request to Rand for a transfer from a job cleaning bathrooms at Darlington to a facility in Ridgewood.
"To date, I have heard nothing concerning my request and would greatly appreciate a favorable response to my request for a transfer," Brown wrote.
Brown wrote in an Aug. 10 letter that Rand had told her there was in fact no opening in Ridgewood and suggested she would have to travel around the county cleaning toilets.
"Michael [Rand] has abused me verbally, mentally and with sexual-advances for years!" she wrote. "Several times he said that if I told anyone I would lose my job."
Brown's attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, said the abuse took place over a decade, and that county officials should have intervened long before Rand was charged. They could have easily found out about the abuse by simply asking Brown, Arnold said.
Despite her disability -- Brown suffered a brain injury in a car accident when she was 18 -- Arnold said her client clearly remembers the abuse.
"She's gave them three letters saying I am being abused in a sexual nature and I want to be away from him," Arnold said "They did noting about it. They could have easily found out with a few questions that she was being abused. It's unfathomable."
Brown is still employed by the Parks Department.
The county freeholders approved eight contracts this week paying lawyers as much as $80,000 to defend nine current and former employees against Brown's lawsuit.
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