Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration allegedly retaliated against a municipal employee by failing to promote him, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Interim assistant zoning officer Jesus Castro applied for the assistant zoning officer position, but was not given the position despite a “satisfactory job evaluation.” He is also qualified for the zoning officer position, but the city “elects to leave vacant rather than promote” Castro, according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
The alleged retaliation stemmed from Castro, as housing inspector, investigating the Paterson Art Factory, which is owned by an ally of the mayor, says the lawsuit. The lawsuit says construction official Gennaro “Jerry” Lobozzo and his staff blocked Castro from obtaining certificate of occupancy documents, engineering reports, and permits related to the Art Factory. By allegedly interfering with the investigation, the mayor’s ally was spared summonses, says the lawsuit.
Castro alerted the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office about Lobozzo’s alleged obstruction, says the lawsuit. He copied assistant economic development director Osner Charles to the communication.
Charles, who was hired by Sayegh, reprimanded Castro and instructed him not contact the Public Integrity division at the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office in April 2021. Public Integrity is tasked with investigating public corruption.
Castro also supported Sayegh’s opponent in the 2018 mayoral election, says the lawsuit. He was accused of distributing anti-Sayegh flyers and was photographed in the Alex Mendez campaign headquarters. Mendez was Sayegh’s main opponent in that race.
Castro was hired in 2017, under former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration. He underwent a New Jersey Civil Service Commission job audit that found he was working out of title and was entitled to a higher salary, but the Sayegh administration refused to pay or promote him.
Castro’s salary would have been $70,000 had the city complied with the commission’s findings.
“However, Plaintiff was never paid that salary and Defendant failed commence the necessary promotional examination procedures, despite the order of the Commission, to be the permanent Senior Housing Inspector/Zoning Officer,” reads the lawsuit.
Castro declined to comment on Thursday.
Castro is seeking $200,000 in damages, and promotion to senior housing inspector and zoning officer with backpay.
Sayegh did not respond to a call for comment for this story.