Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews has filed a motion to amend her gender discrimination lawsuit against former Assistant Business Administrator Mark Bonamo, former Municipal Services Director Tim Boyle, Assistant City Attorney Donna Russo, Law Director Jay Coffey, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Eduardo Ferrante, Mayor James Davis, and the city of Bayonne.
The original complaint was filed on April 1. However, on Aug. 16, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Espinales-Maloney dismissed Bonamo, Boyle, and Ferrante from the suit, arguing that, among other things, there was not enough evidence to support Mathews’ claims. The three defendants were dismissed without prejudice, allowing Mathews to amend her complaint to address the concerns brought up by Espinales-Maloney in the dismissals.
On Nov. 17, Mathews filed a motion to amend the complaint to add allegations to some of the counts in the lawsuit, including hostile work environment and retaliation. This would reinstate defendants Boyle and Bonamo and add Chief Financial Officer Donna Mauer to the suit.
The motion will be heard on Dec. 3, which will determine if Mathews can go forward with and file the amended complaint.
When contacted for a response to Mathews’ motion, Coffey said that he, Davis, Mauer, and Russo had no comment on the matter, citing city policy not to comment on active litigation. Bonamo had no comment, according to his attorney Bruce Rosen. Boyle did not respond to requests for comment.
New allegations against Bonamo and Boyle
The amended complaint features a slew of new instances of Bonamo and Boyle’s alleged mistreatment of Mathews, such as Bonamo ignoring and posturing away from her while being in the same room, refusing to talk to her, and refusing to accept work assignments from her.
According to the amended suit, Bonamo allegedly created his own application for the Small Business Grant program in May of 2020, distributed it to small businesses, and accepted applications, despite Mathews claim that she instructed Bonamo to cease accepting until further directives from the federal government were received detailing how funds could be spent.
Later in June, Bonamo allegedly failed to include several businesses on a separate list for Small Business Grants after being instructed to do so by Mathews, which the amended suit says caused the businesses to lose grant funds.
From May to July of 2020, the amended complaint alleges that Boyle invited Bonamo to meetings in place of Mathews despite it being a meeting where she claims her attendance was necessary. The amended suit also alleges that in a separate instance, Boyle refused a meeting with Mathews because he “only meet[s] with [his] boss.”
In May of 2020, Boyle allegedly attempted to block Mathews from switching the position of a city employee who worked in her department, allegedly stating that she was “ruining everything [he was] building,” according to the amended suit. Boyle allegedly began holding meetings as Director of the Buildings Department in June of 2020, which Mathews says was supposed to be under her purview. When Mathews was on leave, Boyle allegedly told multiple city employees that he was in charge of the department and would continue to be after Mathews returned from leave.
Alleged inaction by administration
The amended suit also adds several specific instances of Mathews reporting the various types of alleged misbehavior to her superiors to no avail. In the amended suit, Mathews says she reported to Russo in September of 2020 that Bonamo allegedly “had failed to perform any work in recent weeks despite being on the municipal payroll” and that in January of 2021 he allegedly “had not marked off vacation days which he had taken.”
In October of 2020, the suit says Mathews told Coffey and Russo that Boyle had allegedly been “intentionally mismanaging the City’s relationship with the Suez water company due to a conflict of interest” and allegedly “had been intentionally using funds that had been designated to the Buildings Department for spending outside of the Buildings Department.”
Additionally, the suit claims that Mathews reported to Russo in February of 2021 that city employee John Armstrong was allegedly on Buildings Department payroll “despite not being involved being a department employee and despite not being able to provide proof of work or hours for the prior six months.” Mathews says she complained to Davis, Coffey and Russo about ongoing issues with “time theft in the workplace,” to which the alleged response was to remove employee sign-in sheets.
The amended suit also alleges that in June of 2021, Mathews reported to Davis “conflicts of interest among employees related to the city’s attempt to obtain eminent domain over the Bayonne Hospital.” Mathews also alleges that she was denied multiple requests this year that “Coffey produce a letter showing no conflict of interest as it relates to his interference with CDBG funds earmarked for the food bank while simultaneously giving funds directly to family members of employees for services such as speeches, and to date no letter has been received.”
Alleged retaliation further detailed
Additionally, the amended suit adds a number of instances of alleged retaliation against her for speaking up, including the alleged removal of the Buildings Department from her supervision by Coffey in July of 2020. She was later allegedly told by Davis that she “misunderstood her role” as Business Administrator and she was not responsible for the “supervision, direction and administration of all city departments, despite the city employee handbook allegedly stating otherwise,” according to the suit. Mathews also describes how she was allegedly denied the opportunity to work from home in October of 2020 by Davis despite Russo allegedly being allowed to do so when she caught COVID-19.
According to the suit, in January of 2021, after Mathews had returned from leave, she was instructed by Davis to interact with the City Council only through the Mayor’s Office. Following that, Mathews was allegedly further stripped of responsibilities by Mauer, including personnel and policy enforcement, from her duties, which were allegedly reassigned to the Law Department; her ability to post on the municipal website; her involvement in meetings regarding all budgets; and her involvement in the second round of a business grant program.
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