The township of Howell has responded to a lawsuit filed by four current and former employees claiming discrimination and a hostile work environment and denied the allegations.
The original complaint filed in Monmouth County Superior Court was submitted by Angela Martino, Donna Ennas and Donna Balton and Lucy Ravally was added later.
In the lawsuit, the women accused Howell Township Court Administrator Dominick Pondaco of referring to them as "idiots," "monkeys" and a slur word for female anatomy. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs claimed Pondaco engaged in a pattern of "mentally abusive, sexually abusive, sexually harassing and offensive behavior."
According to the employees' attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, the women repeatedly asked for help from township officials.
The complaint says that the plaintiffs eventually went to the Howell Township Police Department. During an investigation by the police and township into the women's claims, Pondaco was put on paid administrative leave, the complaint states. Following the investigation Pondaco was returned to his regular duties.
Over the course of seven pages the township responded to the six counts in the lawsuit largely by denying the allegations made by the four women or putting the burden of proof on the plaintiffs.
Under the separate defenses section of their response the township, represented by the law firm of Dvorak and Associates LLC, said if the plaintiffs suffered damages, it was due to their own negligence or caused by a third parties whom the township had no control over.
Pondaco has separate legal representation.
In the original complaint there was no specific amount of money being sought by the plaintiffs but their attorney Rosemarie Arnold said they were seeking financial damages for emotional distress and medical issues. The township's response includes a statement that the "Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted."
The township's response also claims they are "immune from suit," based on state statutes, and wants the suit dismissed.