A letter to The Newark Office of The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges shocking behavior by Jersey City Recreation Director Ryan Strother, as well as negligence on behalf of the cityâ€™s law department.
By Michael Shurin/Hudson County View
What started off as horseplay quickly turned into a verbal tirade and an abuse of power by Jersey City Recreation Director Ryan Strother, alleges a city employee.
Diane Fleming, an employee within the recreation department, says Strother verbally accosted Christian Hernandez, a lifeguard at Pershing Field pool, in a profane manner over horseplay gone awry.
According to the letter, on August 27th, 2013, Pershing Field pool was closing down early for a â€œSummer Staff Appreciation Party.â€ The pool was vacated at 5:45 PM, and the building by 6:00 PM, for the two-hour party.
The letter claims Strother, appointed director by Mayor Fulop on July 1st, 2013, had his young teenage child swimming at the pool that day. When he arrived at 6:10 p.m. to pick up his child, he noticed “a small, red mark” on the childâ€™s stomach.
After questioning his child, who at first wasnâ€™t forthcoming with what had happened, he discovered that his child was accidently towel-snapped when attempting to play with older life guards and locker attendants, according to Fleming.
When called into Strotherâ€™s office, Hernandez, who is also Flemingâ€™s grandson, took responsibility for the behavior, but it didnâ€™t stop Strother from unleashing a shocking and vulgar tirade on Hernandez, according to details in the letter.
After the expletive-filled rant directed at Hernandez, Strother supposedly said the new administration â€œhas a no tolerance policy and there will be consequences.â€
The alleged incident was witnessed by not only Fleming, but city employees Charles â€œMandyâ€ Johnson and Elaine James, according to the letter.
Frank Fracino, the facility supervisor, was not present at the time of the alleged incident, but spoke with Strother for approximately twenty minutes shortly after as stated in the details of the letter.
Days later, Fleming reached out to EEOC of Newark regarding what she claims to have occurred.
She said EEOC directed her to have Hernandez file an incident report because he was the victim. According to Fleming, Hernandez and his mother have both filed complaints with the city, and after contacting the city’s law department for a response – “neither have ever received the promised call back.”
The letter also claims that due to a discrepancy in pay – caused by an error when employees were rehired following repairs to the facility – Hernandez was under paid $1.00/per hour.
When the issue was brought to Strotherâ€™s attention in 2013, the letter says he told Hernandez he would remedy the situation and pay him back salary owed. The letter claims Hernandez salary wasnâ€™t corrected until July 1, 2014, and that no back salary was paid.
Fleming claims the salary issue is related to the alleged incident on August 27th, 2013.
Fleming, who was reassigned to the office at Caven Point where Strother is located, claims the incident mentally scarred her. She says that even though theyâ€™re cordial at work, she notices his “quick change of body language whenever someone disagrees with him.”
She added that the alleged incident is never far away from her mind, and that she has â€œa feeling of disease when [Strother] is in the building.â€
At the end, Fleming states her disappointment in the lack of consequences for Strotherâ€™s alleged behavior, especially considering a “zero tolerance policy” supposedly under effect in a new administration.
Jersey City Spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill did not return an email seeking comment on the details of the letter.