The Howell Township municipal court administrator who has been accused of sexually harassing female employees was removed from town hall by police last week and his job certification was suspended pending a review, officials said Tuesday.
Embattled administrator Dominick Pondaco was escorted from town hall by police on April 15, Mayor William Gotto said Tuesday.
Pondaco’s certification as a municipal court administrator was temporarily suspended, according to Tammy Kendig, spokeswoman for the state judiciary.
Gotto said he was informed over the previous weekend that the action against Pondaco would be taken, but distanced himself from Pondaco’s removal, saying he was short on details.
“We were notified that an action was being taken,’’ Gotto said. “But the Township of Howell does not have any authority over the courts. It’s an action being taken by the administrative law judge, who oversees the municipal courts.’’
Assignment judges may suspend a certification when an employee has been charged with misconduct or there are credible allegations of a serious offense or that there has been serious misconduct, according to Municipal Court Administrator Certification Board Law.
Pondaco, who last year made $74,736, is named in a lawsuit brought by four township employees who accuse him of poisoning their workplace by using profanity, sexually explicit and abusive language. Pondaco called the women "idiots," "monkeys," and referred to them using a derogatory slur for female genitalia, resulting in a pattern of "mentally abusive, sexually abusive, sexually harassing and offensive behavior,” according to the suit.
"This improper, illegal, intentional, extraordinary despicable behavior created an openly hostile work environment," the suit says.
The suit – brought by current and former employees Angela Martino, Donna Ennas, Donna Balton and Lucy Ravally – was filed in Monmouth County Superior Court in September.
The suit also names Howell Township as a defendant, saying the township stymied their efforts to rectify the situation.
The women eventually took their complaints about Pondaco 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, according to the suit.
He was later reinstated and the women were transferred to other departments, according to the suit.
The township filed a 7-page reply to the suit two months later, largely denying the allegations or putting the burden of proof on the women.
Township Manager Helene Schlegel in September called the allegations in the suit “unfounded.’’
“Our lawyers will vigorously defend these unfounded allegations," Schlegal has said.
Gotto said Tuesday the court is functioning normally and that a replacement for Pondaco was installed. Janet Upton, deputy court administrator, has been appointed as the acting court administrator.