School board vice president Manny Martinez, who has been twice accused of sexually harassing women at the charter schools that employed him, should resign, said community activist Victoria Oquendo.
Oquendo has started a petition calling for Martinez’s ouster after finding out about the latest sexual harassment allegations.
“No one should have to come to work in a hostile work environment. No one should have to fight off unwanted sexual advances,” said Oquendo. “This is something that’s been ongoing. He needs to get out and he needs to get help.”
Martinez allegedly made unwanted sexual advances against a subordinate at the College Achieve Charter School of Paterson. She was later fired from her job and has filed a lawsuit against Martinez and the charter school.
On seven occasions Martinez touched social worker Shannon Beaton’s body in an “inappropriate manner without her permission,” says the lawsuit. On several occasions, Martinez allegedly touched her face with a microphone “to mimic oral sex.”
Three years earlier, Martinez allegedly sexually harassed Toyreh Blacknell, a substitute teacher at the Community Charter School of Paterson. He was working as a supervisor at that charter school at the time.
Community Charter School of Paterson settled the Blacknell case by paying $90,000. A month later, Martinez resigned from the Community Charter School. Gemar Mills, head of the College Achieve Charter School of Paterson, hired Martinez to serve as vice principals.
Martinez received a pay increase with the job switch. He was making $74,000 at the Community Charter. Mills gave him $85,000. Mills’ school had already hired another man, Henry McNair, who was also accused of sexual harassment, to serve as principal.
Oquendo said it’s frustrating to see someone accused of sexual harassment getting rewarded with a higher paying job.
Sexual harassment allegations also did not stop then-mayor-elect Andre Sayegh from appointing Martinez to his transition team in June 2018. But the sexual harassment allegations did prevent Martinez from becoming president of the Board of Education in 2018. School board members felt having him as president would send the wrong message as the board was trying to regain local control.
Oquendo said Martinez is setting a poor example for the district’s 30,000 students.
“If women continue to reject him, how long before he decides to try maybe a student? I’m not alleging that he has,” said Oquendo.
Martinez did not respond to a call for comment for this story.
Oquendo started her online petition six days ago. Just eight people signed. She said she was disappointed by the lack of support.
“They don’t stand up for anything here in Paterson,” said Oquendo.
Oquendo’s petition can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/paterson-stop-sexual-harassment-in-the-work-place.
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