Judge Tosses Racial Taunting Lawsuit
The suit was filed two years after the statute of limitations had passed.
A federal judge last week tossed a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed by a township Public Works Department employee in April that claimed, in part, that the township failed to put an end to racial taunting in the workplace.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez ruled in favor of the defendants—the township, its Human Relations Commission, and 18 individuals, including the current and former mayors and public works directors—in dismissing the lawsuit with his Feb. 1 ruling.
Rodriguez concluded the statute of limitations had passed when Steven J. Brodie Jr.'s attorney filed the 13-count lawsuit in Camden on April 4, 2011, roughly four years after a racial-taunting incident that resulted in criminal charges against two township employees.
"Plaintiff has described incidents that occurred in November or December of 2006, and on April 4, 2007. The claims asserted in his Complaint accrued at that time," Rodriguez wrote in his decision (see attached PDF for full decision). "The Complaint, however, was not filed until April 4, 2011. Therefore, it is time-barred."
Brodie's attorney, Charles Gibbs, of Bowman Kavulich Ltd., had argued the clock should not have begun to run on the statute of limitations until Dec. 9, 2010, when one of the two men charged criminally was found guilty of bias intimidation, according to Rodriguez's ruling.
In dismissing the lawsuit, Rodriguez last week also granted one of the defendants, David T. Pomianek, his motion for summary judgment.
Gloucester Township Police filed criminal charges against Pominaek and fellow public works employee Michael Dorazo Jr. in April 2008, a year after Brodie, who is black, claims Dorazo locked him in a cage in the Public Works Department's Erial Road garage on April 4, 2007, and Pomianek directed racially charged statments at him, including the following: "Thow a banana in a cage, he jumps right in."
Brodie also claimed with the lawsuit that he was repeatedly subjected to racial taunts by Dorazo and Pomianek, who are white and were his supervisors, and that his complaints were ignored by township officials in part because Dorazo's mother, Mary, was a member of the township Human Relations Commission.
The suit stated the Human Relations Commission members and township officials "turned a blind eye" to Brodie's allegations of racial discrimination, allowing "an atmosphere and environment for the discriminatory practice to continue."
Among those named as defendants in the lawsuit were Mayor David Mayer, former mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton, Public Works Director Len Moffa, former public works director Gabe Busa and Business Administrator Tom Cardis.
Mayer, who did not respond to a message seeking comment, argued that any claims against him should have been dismissed because Brodie's claims involved incidents that occurred prior to his taking office.
The suit also named former councilwoman Crystal Evans and Camden County freeholder candidate Eugene Lawrence, both of whom served on the Human Relations Commission, as well as the Dorazos and Pomianek.
Dorazo pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in December 2011, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said Wednesday. Initially charged by Gloucester Township Police with bias intimidation, official misconduct and false imprisonment, Dorazo was fired from his job with the township and was ordered to pay fines and serve probation as part of his plea.
Pomianek was found guilty of multiple counts of bias intimidation and official misconduct in December 2010. He was sentenced to serve 270 weekend days in Camden County Jail, as well as four years of probation and forfeiture of his right to future public employment, last January.
Gibbs, the Philadelphia-based attorney who represented Brodie, did not return a message seeking comment on the judge's decision.
The township and its employees and elected officials past and present, except Busa and Evans, were represented by attorney Vincent Sarubbi, of Archer & Greiner.
Busa and Evans filed a joint motion, while Dorazo and Pomianek filed separate motions.