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Avalon Settles Litigation With 2nd Public Works Employee

Court Gavel Image (2020) - USE THIS ONE

By Vince Conti

AVALON – Avalon Borough Council Sept. 22 approved a settlement that should bring an end to events that led to a recent reorganization of the borough’s Department of Public Works (DPW). The settlement was approved by all parties.
Jennifer Deeney, who worked in the DPW’s administrative office, sued the borough for failing to deal with a hostile workplace. She alleged the borough failed to take reasonable actions to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination, and that her employer did not prevent further harassment when she needed to take family leave. 
The borough’s reply to the complaint states that Deeney sought the advice of the borough’s chief financial officer (CFO), who instructed her to bring the matter to the attention of the business administrator/personnel officer, “which she did not do.” 
It further states that the borough solicitor told Deeney to “formalize” any complaints she had, and, again, she “failed or refused to do so.”
In the end, a major part of the borough’s defense is that Deeney “failed to exhaust administrative remedies.” The CFO and solicitor are non-borough employees who work for the borough under professional services contracts. There is no indication that either  informed borough officials of the conversations about harassment in the DPW.
In the course of her complaint, Deeney referenced several alleged episodes of inappropriate behavior, naming individuals in the DPW, one of whom she claimed was Nathanial Morey.
Deeney is also the wife of William Deeney, a DPW supervisor accused of making anti-Semitic remarks and engaging in discriminatory behavior against Morey, who is Jewish.
The borough said that the $150,000 economic settlement with Jennifer Deeney was motivated by the borough’s desire to avoid expensive litigation and was undertaken on the advice of its insurance carrier, Atlantic County Joint Insurance Fund (JIF), whose attorney represented the borough in the action. 
According to a borough statement, the settlement is completely covered by the JIF, with no additional funding required from the borough.
This settlement follows the resolution of Nathan Morey’s litigation against the borough. Morey’s settlement for $85,000 was covered by the JIF. Morey’s settlement also continued his employment by the borough.
Morey’s statements about the pattern of derogatory remarks and actions instigated by William Deeney led Mayor Martin Pagliughi to order an investigation, which subsequently resulted in the department’s reorganization.
William Macomber, the department’s then-director,immediately retired. The borough then brought in a highly regarded and experienced manager as the new DPW director when it convinced retired Police Chief William McCormick to return.
William Deeney is no longer associated with the reorganized department. According to the borough, Jennifer Deeney is on terminal leave until Dec. 4, 2021, at which point her employment ends.
In a statement, the borough said, “The resolution of this matter with a conclusive settlement is an economic settlement that benefits the borough, is covered by our insurance carrier, and avoids expensive litigation. This is furtherance of the borough’s efforts to create a more professional and equitable working environment at the Avalon DPW.”
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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