Judge dismisses three defendants in gender discrimination lawsuit

Appeals ahead?

Mathews may appeal the rulings to a higher court.
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Mathews may appeal the rulings to a higher court.

A Hudson County Superior Court judge has dismissed three defendants from a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews against the city and a number of municipal employees.

In response to the rulings, Mathews told the Bayonne Community News that “civil litigation is a long process,” hinting that she may seek to appeal the rulings.

The lawsuit, filed in April, largely focused on the alleged behavior of Municipal Services Director Tim Boyle and former Assistant Business Administrator Mark Bonamo. Also named in the suit are Mayor James Davis, Law Director Jay Coffey, Assistant Counsel Donna Russo, and Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Eduardo “Junior” Ferrante, as well as the City of Bayonne.

On Aug. 12, Judge Kimberly Espinales-Maloney dismissed Boyle, Bonamo, and Ferrante from the lawsuit. Espinales-Maloney is the same judge who dismissed former city employee Stacie Percella’s ‘sexting’ lawsuit against Davis in February of 2020. The suit was reinstated by an appellate court this past May.

Boyle dismissed

All counts against Boyle were dismissed. According to Espinales-Maloney’s 16-page-ruling, part of the reason one count against Boyle was dropped was because Mathews was his boss.

“That Mr. Boyle was Ms. Matthews’s subordinate, rather than her supervisor, means that he cannot be individually liable…,” Espinales-Maloney wrote.

Espinales-Maloney also ruled that Mathews did not bring forth enough evidence to support the claim of a hostile work environment against Boyle.

“Ms. Matthews alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment due to Defendants’ gender or sex-based discrimination,” Espinales-Maloney wrote. “However, Ms. Matthews has not alleged conduct by Mr. Boyle that could reasonably be considered ‘severe or pervasive.’”

In her suit, Mathews alleged that “Boyle, on multiple occasions questioned Plaintiff as to whether she would possess suitable work ethic due to her needing to raise her children,” and “on or about March 20, 2020, Defendant, Tim Boyle, slammed a cane into a wall in an attempt to intimidate Plaintiff and proceeded to chastise her for speaking with a staff member who reported to him; thereafter, Defendant told Plaintiff not to speak with ‘his’ employees and that it was a ‘freshman mistake.’”

‘Not severe or pervasive enough’

In her ruling, Espinales-Maloney argued that these incidents were not sufficient evidence.

“Ms. Matthews’s allegations concern infrequent conduct – an isolated incident in July 2019 and six incidents between March and October 2020,” Espinales-Maloney said. “The alleged actions by Mr. Boyle did not interfere with Ms. Matthews’s job performance given that she was promoted and appointed Business Administrator amid the alleged harassment.”

Espinales-Maloney continued: “Also, none of the comments allegedly made by Mr. Boyle to Ms. Matthews referred to Ms. Matthews’s gender. Although Ms. Matthews alleges that Mr. Boyle screamed and shouted at Ms. Matthews and chastised her, in all but one or two instances, Ms. Matthews fails to allege what Mr. Boyle said to her on those occasions. Ms. Matthews relies on second-hand information, which cannot be used to determine whether Ms. Matthews has stated a hostile work environment claim.”

According to Espinales-Maloney, even if Boyle made the alleged comments, “they are not ‘severe or pervasive’ enough to satisfy the legal standard.”

Bonamo and Ferrante also dismissed 

In a separate 10-page ruling, Espinales-Maloney dismissed Bonamo and Ferrante. Her reasoning was similar to that for her Boyle’s dismissal.

“The Court agrees that Counts 1, 4, 5, and 6 do not contain factual allegation of wrongdoing against Mr. Ferrante,” Espinales-Maloney wrote. “The Court agrees that while allegations of wrongdoing are set forth in Counts II and III, they are conclusory in nature and are advanced collectively against all Defendants without distinction. There is no way to discern Plaintiff’s duty to plead facts against Mr. Ferrante sufficient to put him on notice of what he did, or did not do, which allegedly caused the Plaintiff harm.”

Espinales-Maloney continued: “The factual allegations of wrongdoing advanced against Mr. Bonamo fail to state a claim of a hostile work environment for two reasons. First, they do not support a finding that Mr. Bonamo harassed Plaintiff Ms. Melissa Matthews. Plaintiff alleges to have only witnessed or heard about Mr. Bonamo’s conduct. There are no factual allegations whatsoever that Mr. Bonamo, for example, screamed at Plaintiff during a conversation. Second, Mr. Bonamo’s alleged actions, which were not directed at Plaintiff, were not severe or pervasive, as required to maintain a cause of action for a hostile work environment. For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action against individual Defendant Bonamo, and thus the Court grants the motion to dismiss without prejudice.”

Defendants ‘vindicated’

Boyle could not be reached for comment. In response to the ruling, Bonamo called the now-dismissed allegations in the lawsuit “baseless and slanderous.”

“Alongside my legal counsel, I plan to continue to vigorously and vigilantly defend my reputation against any further baseless and meritless accusations made against me by Ms. Mathews or by any other member of Bayonne’s municipal government, including any member of the Bayonne City Council,” Bonamo said in a statement.

Bonamo last worked at City Hall in January of this year, but under the terms of a separation agreement between him and the city, was paid until April for unused sick, vacation and personal time he would have accrued in 2021. Recently, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski sought to pass a resolution calling on Mayor Davis to authorize an investigation of the agreement.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.