Municipal officials agreed to settle a sanitation inspector’s sexual harassment case last Tuesday by paying $550,000.
Monique Jordan alleged sexual harassment and hostile work environment at the Department of Public Works (DPW). She accuses public works senior sanitation inspector Timothy Cobb of sexual harassment; and accuses former public works employee Tyshona Kennedy of making physical threats against her wellbeing.
In October 2017, Jordan issued a ticket to Kennedy because the latter allegedly failed to move her vehicle during street cleaning day on her block. Kennedy got the first ticket waived, but she allegedly continued to violate ordinance by refusing to move her vehicle on street cleaning days.
Jordan’s job function involved issuing tickets to violators that fail to move their vehicles while street sweepers do their rounds. Kennedy was issued another ticket. She again tried to get it waived, but Cobb could not do it.
“Bitch, you are going to stop playing games. I will f— you up,” Kennedy allegedly told Jordan at the public works headquarters in Eastside Park, according to the lawsuit. “[You] won’t make it back to work. I am Blood.”
A union leader heard the threat Kennedy made against Jordan. Kennedy allegedly went after the union leader. Kennedy was later suspended for threatening the union leader. These threats continued after Kennedy returned from suspension, according to the lawsuit.
On May 31, 2018, Jordan received an “inappropriate text” message from Cobb, who is her direct supervisor. Cobb told Jordan not to issue tickets to Kennedy, but instead locate properties in bad shape and report back to him.
When Jordan returned at the end of the day to Cobb’s office, she faced sexual harassment.
“The uniform is starting to fit you extra tight,” Cobb allegedly told her. “You used to be bony, but you are filling out your uniform.”
Cobb implied Jordan looked sexually attractive. He then allegedly said, “Your walkie talkie is holding up your pussy bone in your uniform; you’re looking right.” He then got up with a visible erection, according to the lawsuit.
Jordan froze at the alleged conduct. She was alone with Cobb and the office door was closed, says the lawsuit.
On June 5, 2018, Jordan told Cobb to cease his sexual harassment, but he allegedly laughed and continued. He allegedly sent more text messages that were inappropriate, says the lawsuit.
In July 2018, after mayor Andre Sayegh came to office and appointed William “Billy” Rodriguez as public works director, she complained to Rodriguez about Cobb’s conduct. But nothing was done. She filed complaints with the city’s personnel office that went nowhere, says the lawsuit.
Jordan also went to then-personnel director Michelle Rawls to complain about the sexual harassment. She was allegedly told if she wants to file a complaint, she will have to punch out early. She lost her pay for that entire day, says the lawsuit.
“Nothing has been done to stop the harassment,” read the lawsuit filed in May 2019.
Members of the City Council expressed their displeasure at the city’s failure to stop the alleged sexual harassment and hostile conduct at public works.
“I feel that we could have prevented this,” said council president Maritza Davila during the settlement vote.
Council members voted 4-2 to approve the settlement. Records show Paterson will pay $287,556 and its excess insurance provider will cover $262,444.
“We have to make tough decisions even when we don’t want to,” said councilman Luis Velez. He said taxpayers are paying for the “wrongdoing” and “irresponsibility of others.”
Velez, Michael Jackson, Lilisa Mimms, and Davila voted in favor while Shahin Khalique and Alex Mendez voted against.
“No one was punished,” said Jackson in an interview. “I blame the administration. They allowed this culture to fester.”
Sayegh did not respond to a call for comment for this story.
Jackson and Mimms said they both voted to approve the settlement to avoid spending more taxpayer money in legal expenses on the case.