RED BANK: EX-REC HEAD ALLEGES RACISM

memone-kidsMemone Crystian with Red Bank Little Leaguers in 2010. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

A former director of Red Bank’s parks and rec department is suing the borough and former officials, alleging she was forced out of the job by racism and gender discrimination.

Memone Crystian quit the position in May, 2015, “after years of being subjected to a hostile work environment” that included discrimination by then-borough Administrator Stanley Sickels and then-councilman Art Murphy, the suit alleges.

Stanley Sickels in January, above, and Art Murphy in 2010, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

The lawsuit came to light Tuesday in a report by the Asbury Park Press, which described it as a federal lawsuit. Court documents, however,  show that the case was filed in Superior Court in Freehold last May. The defendants tried to move the case to federal court in Newark in November, but after Crystian dropped a claim based on federal law, the matter was sent back to Freehold in December.

In the suit, Crystian claims she “has been told by” current or former borough employees that both Sickels and Murphy “have either made or entertained bias [sic] racist remarks, some of which were directed at” Crystian.

As an example, the lawsuit claims that Sickels, “upon coming to a meeting at one of the Fire Department buildings in fee Borough, prior to plaintiff’s employment, reportedly stated; “I just had a meeting with them niggers at DPW”, Department of Public Works. When questioned about the comment by one of those present, Sickels then attempted to recant.”

The suit also alleges that Murphy and Sickels “reportedly stated in the presence of another council member at a local eatery “give her a bucket of fried chicken and make her happy”, referring to plaintiff. That statement was made in the spring of 2015. ” The suit does not clarify the attribution of the alleged statement.

Crystian succeeded Bob Evans in the job as parks and rec director in April, 201o. But she claims both Sickels and Murphy opposed her hiring, and afterward sought to remove her.

Crystian is an African-Amerian; Sickels, Murphy and the other named defendants, including Crystian’s short-term successor, Tamila Bumback, are white.

In support of its claim that Murphy wanted to terminate Crystian’s employment, the lawsuit accuses Murphy’s brother, zoning board member Sean Murphy, of having said of Crystian, “I can’t believe they hired that black bitch to the Parks and Recreation Director.”

Crystian contends she was discriminated against in terms of salary, sick-leave and other benefits. Named as defendants are Sickels; Art Murphy; Bumback; and borough Chief Financial Officer Eugenia Poulos.

redbankgreen was unable to determine Wednesday if an answer to the complaint had been filed. Attorney Bruce Padula, representing the borough and other defendants, did not immediately respond to a phone message.

Sickels, who retired as a borough employee in December, could not be reached for comment. Neither of the Murphy brothers could be reached for comment.

Lawyer Theodore Campbell, who filed the suit on Crystian’s behalf, also did not respond to a phone message.

Here are some key documents from the case, including the complaint: memone crystian docs 112117