$4 Million Lawsuit Moves Forward Against Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills

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Former Parsippany Municipal Clerk Elesha Johnson

Four Parsippany Clerk’s office employees, one former and three current workers plan to sue the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills and their ex-boss for fostering an office environment rife with hostility and tension for $4 Million, according to NJ.com.

The lawsuit will center around allegations the women made against former Parsippany Municipal Clerk Elesha Johnson, Mayor James Barberio, councilmen and other township employees in a notice of claim for damages filed in December 27, 2011, according to  documents prepared by Chatham-based attorney Gina Mendola Langarzo, who is representing the women.

During an October 2, 2013 mediation between the both sides nothing was accomplished.

In the 20-page claim, which seeks $4 million, ex-clerk’s office employee of over 19 years, Tonae Bettelli and three current workers — Leslie Miller, Cara Fox and Janet Zorsky — allege Johnson mistreated them, making sexual and racial comments while pitting coworkers against each other.

On Johnson’s first day of work, the filing says, she brought each of the women into her office separately and told them her friends wanted to know why she wanted to work in a “lily-white town and be the token black.”

Later, she told Miller that “the Lord sent her to the office ‘for a reason’ and implied that the reason was to ‘get rid of Ms. Bettelli’ because she was a ‘negative force in the office.'” According to the filing, Johnson held her hands up in a boxing stance and told Miller that, if she was younger, she would have taken Bettelli out to the parking lot “to take care of her.”

And in one instance, the filing says, Bettelli was in Johnson’s office when she asked John Georges, a mentally disabled township employee, who in the office he thought was sexy.

The filing also says that when they complained, administration “brushed off” their concerns.

For example, the filing says, Miller hand-delivered a letter from the three women to Business Administrator Jasmine Lim, Director of Personnel Hank Sunyak and to Mayor James Barberio.

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Parsippany-Troy Hills Mayor James Barberio

According to the filing, Barberio got the letter, walked out of his office and demanded to see Sunyak. Then he turned to Miller and yelled, “I’m sick of this sh–!” before slamming his door, the claim said. Barberio’s personal secretary later told Zorsky that the mayor was “sick” of the women and had “had enough,” the claim said.

Johnson was hired as Parsippany’s clerk 0n August 1, 2011 at a salary of $75,000 per year and worked four months before taking a medical leave.

Johnsons’ background included working for the departments of the Army and Navy and for the Department of Justice, Johnson was hired as a data processing programmer and then senior data processing programmer for the City of Camden 17 years ago. In 2004, she became the city’s deputy municipal clerk and alternate registrar–big and busy jobs, considering Camden’s population of more than 77,000 residents.

When Johnson was hired, Mayor James Barberio stated “There is just something about her.” “We knew it from the moment we met her at the interview for the position. This is a special woman and she is going to bring something special to this town.”

Johnson received $200,000 from the township in August 2012 to drop a lawsuit over an alleged hostile work environment.

Yancy Wazirmas took over Johnson’s vacant clerk’s position on September 4, 2012 with a three year contract at the rate of $71,000 per year, that included yearly cost of living.

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