ETSD personnel director Richard Dantinne Jr. is suing after Brown said a district employee told him Dantinne allegedly sexually harassed district employees.
Richard Dantinne Jr., director of personnel for the Evesham Township School District, is suing Mayor Randy Brown over claims Brown made at a recent news conference alleging female employees of the district had accused Dantinne of sexual harassment.
Dantinne’s lawyer, Matthew S. Wolf of Cherry Hill, filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in Mt. Holly on Jan. 20, with the lawsuit claiming Brown had used Dantinne as a “pawn” in an ongoing dispute between Brown and ETSD Superintendent John Scavelli Jr.
According to the lawsuit, Brown had an “axe to grind” against Scavelli, as Brown was unsuccessful in an attempt to pressure Scavelli into hiring Brown’s son for a job with the district.
The lawsuit claims the school district deemed an African-American candidate was more qualified for the position over Brown’s son, who is Causasian, causing Brown to use a racial epithet when speaking to Scavelli about the new employee.
Brown said he was reluctant to comment on the allegations against him as he had yet to be served, but they appeared to be “maliciously false statements.”
Brown first spoke publicly of hearing about allegations against Dantinne at a press conference on Jan. 12 that was originally scheduled to announce he was not running for the Republican nomination in the upcoming New Jersey gubernatorial race.
Also present at the press conference were Evesham BOE members Sandy Student, Nichole Stone and William McGoey.
During the news conference, Brown claimed a female employee of the district spoke to him in person in mid-December and claimed Dantinne had sexually harassed her and other employees of the district in 2015.
Brown said he shared this information with Evesham Township’s solicitor, manager and chief of police, and in the days following, Brown said he gave a statement to the Evesham Township Police Department.
An official with the police later confirmed the department had conducted an investigation related to Brown’s claims, but it was closed with no criminal charges filed.
“Defendant Brown caused the chief of police to come to the Evesham Township School District superintendent’s office on the pretense that criminal conduct had occurred, knowing that the specter of criminal conduct would be traced back to plaintiff (Dantinne),” the lawsuit claims.
In comments made to The Sun after Brown’s news conference, Scavelli said he could not comment on any allegations against Dantinne, as personnel matters are confidential.
Speaking generally, Scavelli said the district has “specific policies and procedures” for dealing with sexual harassment allegations.
“Let me make this very clear — we investigate any and all allegations with regard to sexual harassment in a timely manner and in accordance with board policy and the law,” Scavelli said.
Scavelli said the district would also contact police immediately if an investigation ever revealed potentially criminal conduct.
Dantinne’s lawsuit also claims Brown had an “axe to grind” against Scavelli for other reasons outside of “racial animus,” including “one of the schools closing in the district.”
Brown has been a vocal opponent of the ETSD Board of Education’s decision last March to close Evans Elementary School, which Scavelli supports.
“In general, the superintendent simply refused to do Brown’s bidding,” the lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit, Dantinne has been “damaged economically and in reputation,” and he will seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, interest, costs and other relief from Brown.
“As a direct result and proximate cause of Brown’s conduct, plaintiff (Dantinne) now faces the prospect of losing employment and being unemployable due to the stain on his character created by Brown,” the lawsuit claims.
Days before Brown claimed he learned of the allegations against Dantinne, Dantinne submitted his resignation to the Evesham BOE at its December meeting.
Dantinne was scheduled to take a new position as human resources supervisor with the Gloucester Township School District starting Feb. 1, but the Gloucester Township Board of Education rescinded its offer to Dantinne at its meeting on Jan. 23.
The Gloucester Township BOE declined to comment on rescinding the offer, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.