The Star-Ledger is reporting that former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco's law firm is being sued for sexual harassment and wrongful termination by a former employee. Also named in the emerging scandal is Assemblyman and state Senate candidate Kip Bateman.
Josh Margolin and Robert Schwaneberg write:
A lawyer who claims she was sexually harassed by former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco and fired from his law firm when she "blew the whistle" on bad behavior by a municipal judge filed suit against the firm today.
DiFrancesco called the allegations "absolutely false."
The civil suit was filed in Essex County by Michele D'Onofrio, 48, a single mother of four who lives in Warren Township and was the municipal prosecutor there. She claims she was fired last month "in retaliation" for filing a judicial ethics complaint against a judge in the township.
The lawsuit says D'Onofrio had learned Municipal Court Judge Richard Sasso was "inebriated" on the bench and had abused his powers. The suit claims she was warned not to file a complaint by Assemblyman Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset), a partner in DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, P.C.
The lawsuit also claims that during her six years at the firm, D'Onofrio was "regularly subjected to unwelcome and sexist comments and advances by Donald DiFrancesco" and "experienced a pattern and practice of sex discrimination."
Contacted for response, DiFrancesco said: "Let me just say this: Kip and I are public figures, so we're easy targets. This person was asked to take her business elsewhere — not just by me, but by the owners of our business for business reasons. What she's alleging is absolutely false, both as to myself and as to Kip. It's just a matter of trying to collect."
Efforts to reach Sasso this evening were unsuccessful."