Lobbyist Lawsuit Cites DiFrancesco

Former Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco, shown here with current Gov. Chris Christie, is referred to in a lawsuit filed against the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce by a female lobbyist who worked for the business organization. In her civil complaint, Carol Gabel described a 'culture of intoxication' that existed at the Chamber and grew out of the 'Old Boy' network that encompasses much of Trenton's political establishment.

STATE — Former Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco allegedly accosted a female lobbyist and sought sexual attentions from her, according to a lawsuit filed against the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce by a former employee of that organization.

Carol Gabel filed a discrimination and harassment complaint against the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and four of its top officers that alleged she was accosted by the married former New Jersey governor.

In her complaint, Gabel says, “at the Chamber’s 2001 annual congressional dinner, a former New Jersey governor made a sexual comment to plaintiff about the necklace she was wearing, stating, ‘nice beads,’ while openly ogling her breasts. The obvious implication of his comment was ‘nice breasts.'”

Her attorney, Gina Mendola Longarzo, confirmed that DiFrancesco is the former governor who allegedly made sexually suggestive comments to Gabel and physically accosted her.

Gabel’s supervisor James “Leonard sent plaintiff to deliver some papers to the New Jersey State House where she again encountered the former governor,” the lawsuit charges. “The former governor firmly grabbed plaintiff’s coat collar and aggressively asked her when they were having dinner.”

The prominent Republican, who serves on the Commerce Bancorp board of directors and is a partner in the law firm DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, resides with his wife and children in Warren.

He was appointed municipal prosecutor in Scotch Plains in 1970 and served until 1975, the year he was elected to the General Assembly.

He won a seat in the Senate in 1979 and became the 51st Governor of New Jersey from 2001 to 2002 by virtue of his status as President of the New Jersey Senate at the time Christine Todd Whitman vacated the office to serve in George W. Bush’s cabinet.

He abandoned his quest for the GOP nomination for a full term as the state’s chief executive in 2001, after challenger Bret Schundler revealed several transactions of dubious ethics from DiFrancesco’s long history in politics.

DiFrancesco was accused of sexual harassment in a 2007 lawsuit filed by Michele D’Onofrio, 48, a former partner in the law firm.

D’Onofrio said DiFrancesco made lewd comments in connection with her plans to have reconstructive surgery after breast cancer and claimed that other female employees complained of “unwelcome comments and touching” by him.

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