Councilwoman’s Sister Alleges Discrimination

ELIZABETH—The city council president’s sister has filed a lawsuit in federal court charging officials in the administration of Mayor J. Christian Bollwage with racial discrimination.

Linda J. Perkins filed charges in 2005 complaining that Community Development Program Director Susan Ucci treated her unfairly because she is black and other municipal officials in the Bollwage administration failed to take any action.

Linda Perkins is a sister of Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste, a Bollwage ally who was rejected by the Union County Democratic Committee in a special Aug. 19 election to replace former Assemblyman Neil Cohen.

According to the complaint, Perkins claims that the Bollwage administration violated her constitutional rights, the federal Civil Rights Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the state’s Civil Service Act.

The suit says Perkins was hired as a program monitor by the city on July 23, 2001, but assigned to a lower paying job title as senior planning aide. When her job title was changed to program monitor in 2004, Linda Perkins claims that her salary remained at the lower pay grade.

Linda Perkins also claims that throughout her tenure in city government, Ucci has degraded and ridiculed her and other black employees. “Ucci would yell at (Perkins) and speak to her in a demeaning tone,” according to the complaint. “Ucci did not speak in this manner to the non-black employees.”

The complaint alleges that Ucci rearranged the office to inconvenience Perkins and that she got no response from approaching Ucci’s supervisor, Planning and Community Development Director Oscar Ocasio.

Perkins said Ucci had acted in a discriminatory manner against other city workers, including Jumilah Abdul-Baatin and Viola Cade, who have asked supervisors for assistance.

“The city and Ocasio have done nothing to address this pattern of racial discrimination,” said Perkins, who claims that she was unable to locate a municipal official responsible for handling racial discrimination or affirmative action.

In an amended complaint, Perkins says she was forced out of work and spent a year on disability while prescribed anti-depressant medication until officials compelled her to return under a promise that she would be protected against Ucci’s harassment.

That complaint says Ocasio and Ucci have since engaged in retaliatory actions against Perkins, denied her reinstatement because her position had been assigned to another employee and instead place her in a part-time post as juvenile curfew officer.

Perkins is demanding a pay raise and promotion, as well as compensatory damages for her claim of lost wages plus an undisclosed amount in punitive damages under six counts.

Cranford attorney Robert F. Renaud, who has been hired by Elizabeth officials to represent Ucci, filed papers with the court denying all allegations against the supervisor.  Bollwage declined to comment on the case through an administration spokesperson.

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