A woman who served as secretary to Belleville Superintendent of Schools Joseph Picardo has filed a lawsuit charging Picardo with numerous acts of gender discrimination, including routinely using a four-letter expletive to refer to women and making other “chauvinistic” remarks.
This is the second lawsuit in recent months filed against Picardo, who was placed on administrative leave after Michael Meyers, a former district employee, accused Picardo of making unwanted sexual advances. That suit was filed in August in Bergen County.
Donna Cardillo, who has known Picardo since childhood, said he recommended her for the job of confidential secretary in late 2010, according to a statement and a copy of the suit provided by her attorney, the Saluti Law Group of Newark. The firm is also representing Meyers.
Prior to being hired at Belleville, Cardillo claims Picardo coached her to list the Lebanon superintendent as a reference even though Cardillo never worked for the district. In January 2011, on the night when the board of education did vote to hire Cardillo, Picardo called her and said “Now I own you, Donna,” according to this latest suit, which was filed in Essex County Superior Court Nov. 15. Cardillo was also instructed that her job was to “make [Picardo] happy,” Cardillo claims.
After Cardillo began working for the district in February 2011, she claims Picardo subjected her to a steady stream of abuse, ordering her to fend off parents and others seeking to speak to Picardo and chiding her for “failing to keep the gate” when an appointment was made. He was also verbally abusive in describing Cardillo’s appearance, demeanor and job performance.
Picardo, who allegedly called the superintendent’s office his “playpen,” also used gender-specific slurs and anti-Semitic language when referring to various other female staff. He referred to female subordinates as “dumb” and “worthless” and referred to yet another staffer, a woman who had been diagnosed with a clinical disorder, as a “nut," the suit states.
Picardo also allegedly used a misogynistic vulgarity when discussing Cardillo with Meyers, the suit also states.
In a release, the law firm representing Cardillo said the two suits filed against Picardo, as well as another one possibly to come, reveal a pattern of abuse by Picardo.
“The pleadings also contextualize a sadistic streak in the disgraced Superintendent which is at the heart of the Meyers case and, according to confidential sources, a third lawsuit against Joseph Picardo that will be filed before the end of the year,” the Saluti Law Group said.
Cardillo is seeking compensatory damages for being subject to a hostile work environment, gender discrimination and for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Alphonse DeMeo, the attorney for the Belleville Board of Education, declined to comment, citing district policy on pending litigation. School board president Peter Zangari did not immediately return calls placed Monday.
Attempts to reach Picardo’s attorney Monday were unsuccessful.
To read the full text of the complaint, click here.