Three black College security personnel, who allege they are victims of racial discrimination and harassment perpetrated by white colleagues, have expanded on the details of their lawsuit in a court brief obtained by The Perspective.
“They have had their radio communications intentionally garbled,” the document, dated September 2, 2010, reads. “They have been denied appropriate ‘back-up’ when performing dangerous duties.” And “they have been unnecessarily publicly humiliated and reprimanded,” the document continues, “in the presence of school staff and students.”
As detailed in an April 2010 investigation by The Perspective, the three security personnel — Officer Lorenzo Shockley, Security Officer Armond Harris, and Security Officer Wayne Evans — have long accused their fellow officers of creating a hostile work environment, thus compromising the ability of the department to act as a cohesive unit. But until now, the precise nature of the racial discrimination allegations has been unclear.
The documents are reproduced below, in full:
Since the lawsuit was filed in New Jersey Superior Court on June 26, 2008, the College — which is named as a defendant in the suit for inadequately addressing complaints of racial discrimination — has unsuccessfully petitioned for an outright dismissal. And since the discovery phase of the legal process began earlier this year, hearings have been adjourned several times, most recently on November 5.
The litigants are next scheduled to appear before Judge Darlene J. Pereksta on December 2, at which time Pereksta will decide whether the suit will proceed to jury trial.
Depositional testimony of various actors in the case have confirmed previously uncorroborated details about the nature of the alleged infractions. Sergeant Raymond Scully, Officer C. Matthew Mastrosimone, and Officer Kevin McCullough were issued letters of reprimand and suspended in December 2007 after Vivian Fernandez, then the College’s Associate Vice-President for Human Resources, “found that some form of racial discrimination occurred,” according to a briefing signed by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow on behalf of the College. But the plaintiffs’ reply, signed by attorney Mark Pfeffer, denies that Mastrosimone and McCullough were actually suspended.
The plaintiffs’ brief claims that Shockley, the primary litigant, has been treated unfairly and in a discriminatory manner “over a period of years.” He, Evans, and Harris accuse their fellow officers of “refusing to communicate or interact” with them, “giving the ‘cold shoulder’,” and “failing to treat the plaintiffs with appropriate respect.”
This led the plaintiffs to adduce that their “work environment had been poisoned in that the discriminatory conduct was based on their race.” Furthermore, the brief alleges that the College did not, as the Attorney General maintains, “take prompt and remedial action” to redress the intra-departmental strife.
Repeated calls to the office of attorney Joseph A. Carmen, representing the three accused officers, were not returned.
Security personnel not directly involved with the lawsuit testified to the validity of the plaintiffs’ charges. “Overall [Shockley, Evans, and Harris are] treated differently than everyone else. They’re treated more directly or harshly,” Officer James Lopez reportedly told investigators. Evans and Harris say they heard from Lopez that Scully, Mastrosimone, and McCullough had referred to them as “chocolate chips” and “shadows.”
Sergeant Marcie Montalvo testified that “stuff gets swept under the rug,” by Police Chief John M. Collins. “They’re just going on about business like it was no big deal,” she continued. The plaintiffs’ brief characterizes the administrative response to Shockley’s complaints as constituting “willful indifference” — indicative of a climate in which the College’s anti-discrimination polices are “not taken seriously.”
Shockley first notified College administration of the ongoing racial discrimination on several occasions between March and June 2007, the brief reads, but a College investigation did not commence until November of that year. “There are sufficient proofs to demonstrate that TCNJ’s anti-discrimination policy was not effective, not well publicized, and not followed.”
The case may finally go to trial in January, according to people familiar with the proceedings. Since the lawsuit was first reported in April by The Perspective, no known coverage has appeared in local media outlets, including The Signal, The Times of Trenton, and The Trentonian.