Bayonne BA files gender discrimination suit, claims abuse of public office allegations were ignored

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Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit claiming that several of her male colleagues repeatedly harassed her, also alleging that claims of abuse of public office were ignored.

Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The 11-page, six-count suit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court yesterday, names the city, Mayor Jimmy Davis, and five other high-ranking local officials as defendants.

The majority of her claims center around Director of Municipal Services Tim Boyle and Assistant Business Administrator Mark Bonamo, who she alleges created a hostile work environment based on her gender.

“In or about July of 2019, Defendant, Tim Boyle, on multiple occasions questioned Plaintiff as to whether she would possess suitable work ethic due to her needing to raise her children,” the court filing says.

“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.'”

Through her attorney Juan Cervantes, Mathews says in the suit that Boyle humiliated and/or disparaged her in front of her colleagues on at least two occasions, further stating that he and Bonamo “consistently undermined, ignored, [and] usurped” her authority.

She also asserts that they “possess a strong dislike and/or disrespect of women,” with Bonamo “abusively” screaming at a female employee and demanding he say her name, while Boyle allegedly told Mathews’ predecessor he wasn’t sure if he could do her job since she had children.

“Plaintiff noticed that Defendant, Mark Bonamo, would rarely respond to women, acknowledge women, or even so much as look women in the eye when talking to them,” Matthews also contends in the suit.

According to former Business Administrator Joe DeMarco, Boyle was a known “misogynist” who was known to use “the c-word” in the office, the lawsuit claims.

When she reported her ongoing issues with Boyle to Law Director Jay Coffey, he is accused of telling her to go have a beer with Boyle to smooth things over, later also allegedly telling another municipal employee that Matthews had “a problem with men.”

She also contends that Davis, Coffey, Boyle, and/or Assistant Corporation Counsel Donna Russo routinely did not take action on matters such as improper vacation requests, inappropriate attire, and failure to perform job duties – including Bonamo.

Mathews also says that she was ignored when she informed the defendants of potential misappropriation of funds and abuse of public office by certain municipal employees and administrators.

“During her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment as a result of harassment and humiliation, both directly and indirectly, by her colleagues due to her sex and/or gender,” the lawsuit concludes.

“On multiple occasions, the Plaintiff complained about such harassment and humiliation to
various superiors and administrators; however, the harassment and humiliation continued
throughout Plaintiff’s employment with Defendant, City of Bayonne.”

As a result of this alleged conduct, Mathews is seeking damages – back pay, front pay, compensatory, consequential and incidental – punitive damages, costs of suit, treble damages, pre- and post-judgement interest, enhanced statutory attorney’s fees, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.

Matthews, the first woman to serve as the business administrator in the Peninsula City, took over the post on May 1st of last year after working in the city’s planning and zoning division.

She was appointed via a unanimous council vote last March and Davis sung her praises afterwards.

Matthews also unsuccessfully ran for a board of education in November 2019 on the “Together We Can” slate, which was endorsed by Davis and the full city council.

Additionally, Cervantes is representing a former municipal employee, Sincerrae Ross, in an ongoing lawsuit filed in late 2019 that alleges City Hall was “a sexually charged hostile work environment.”

Coffey told HCV this morning that it is city policy not to discuss ongoing litigation.

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