Settlement reached in harassment complaint

Settlement reached in  harassment complaint

RED BANK — The borough has reached a settlement in a sexual harassment complaint  brought by a borough employee late last year, which includes an undisclosed sum of money.

Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, according to Borough Attorney Thomas Hall, the Borough Council approved them after an executive session following Monday night’s regular council meeting.

Mayor Pasquale Menna said Tuesday that upon the recommendation of the borough’s insurance carrier, there was a “financial transaction” between the borough and the complainant, in order to settle the matter out of court.

The sexual harassment charges were brought against the borough late last year by a female employee who claimed that former borough Parking Director Neil Burnip “did stalk, sexually harass and physically and emotionally harass and torment claimant, causing her to feel threatened; did inappropriately touch and restrain claimant for the purpose of gratifying himself,” according to a notice of tort claim filed by the victim in September 2006.

According to Menna, neither Burnip nor his attorney were party to the settlement proceedings and the borough has not been in contact with Burnip for several months.

The female employee, represented by attorney Norman M. Hobbie, filed a notice of tort claim against the borough, naming Burnip, Borough Administrator Stanley J. Sickels, Monmouth County and the state of New Jersey. An investigation into the complaint was conducted by borough Labor Attorney James Plosia.

The tort claims that as a result of Burnip’s alleged behavior, the claimant “was intentionally, wantonly, willfully, recklessly and/or knowingly caused to sustain permanent and emotional injury, was personally humiliated, victimized and deeply embarrassed. She has suffered, and continues to suffer, emotional trauma and stress.”
Although the tort also alleges that Sickels “knew or should have known” about Burnip’s alleged harassment of another borough employee, Plosia has said previously that people in supervisory positions, such as Sickels, are often named in claims such as this.
According to the tort, “Borough Administrator Stanley J. Sickels and the borough of Red Bank, jointly, individually and severally, knew of Neil Burnip’s prior incidents involving other female employees and/or other female visitors and were negligent in their hiring, training and supervising of Director Neil Burnip.”

The tort also alleged that Sickels and the borough “knew, or should have known, that Director Neil Burnip, while in his capacity as supervisor for the borough of Red Bank did sexually and physically assault and emotionally abuse the claimant.”

The injuries that the tort claims were sustained include, physical and emotional injuries, grief and torment, anxiety and depression, feelings of isolation and alienation, lowered self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness, enhanced feelings of forced passivity, shame and humiliation in the public eye, loss of income, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Burnip is a native of England and moved to New Jersey from Scotland in 2002 to take the position of parking manager with the borough. The position of parking director was eliminated from the municipal budget this year, and Burnip has been officially off the borough’s payroll since before the end of 2006.
— Layli Whyte