Second Suit Filed Against Belleville Superintendent

Secretary says Picardo made sexist remarks; law firm says a third employee may also sue

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.

Nelson Barrera November 27, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Unbelievable that the board stood for all these alleged behavior! What have we as residents voted on? This is amazing and very clear as to why on going stifling goes on when residents push on issues and never get answers. The result of such games behind the scenes jeopardizing / limiting the well being of our children's education.
Jeff Mattingly November 27, 2012 at 03:39 PM
There will be no comments of any kind from the board, Picardo or anyone connected to the administration of the school concerning the law suits filed or yet to be filed, but one things for sure, confidence in the board will fall to an all time low as it is apparent to all that it is a "playpen" for the powerful and that the imates are running the asylum. Controling 60+ million dollars (of our money) is a major motivator to those who would seek to hand out jobs to friends and family who will do whatever they say including lying on applications and then find themselves working under the fear of threats and coercion. And this is all in the name of "OUR KIDS". What kind of a environment is this to work in??? Who hired this guy??? The board never heard anything about any of this??? What kind of school system that is serious about educating our/my chidren could possibly be run this way without taking such abuse seriously enough to put a stop to it right away. This and much more will come out in the near future when litigation proves who was behind it! When their trees get shook under oath it will be every man or women for themselves.
Jeff Mattingly November 27, 2012 at 05:40 PM
You are right on Nelson, the Belleville BOE will never have credibility until it becomes pro-active and seeks out competent administrators who will be accountable to their peers and the public and they must lead the way down that path or nothing will change. Where are those people, I don't see a united board ready to change the status-quo and stop harming Belleville.
Belleville Sentinel November 27, 2012 at 07:17 PM
The time has come to have a taxpayer revolt against the current BOE power structure and remove the entire group via recall and voter referendum. In its place, we need leaders who will bind themselves to anti-nepotism/anti-patronage bylaws (as was the case when Councilman Notari was BOE president 10 years ago), the elimination of shadowy campaign operatives, and a commitment to full public openness, disclosure, and participation on all BOE matters. There should also be a pledge on the part of all BOE members that if there isn't demonstrable improvement in the quality of the educational system (as reflected via increases in graduation rates, aptitude scores, etc) over any reasonable finite period of time (say every 2-3 years), then the same BOE leadership would voluntarily step aside.
Ellen November 28, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Be careful Jeff, you know the minute you speak the truth it rattles certain people's cages and they threaten lawsuits! The only way ANYTHING will change in this Town is with a complete change in ALL sections of the government. There are to many "behind the scenes" players that pull the strings to allow this Town to stop it's fast decline.


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