Wave of Legal Actions Create Hurdles for North Castle
Summary and Editorial by Michelle Boyle
Updated March 9, 2014
A wave of legal claims continues to haunt the Town of North Castle. There are two discrimination cases against North Castle, the Town Board and Administrator Joan Goldberg filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The latest discrimination claim was filed with EEOC on March 4 by Faith Berland. Berland resigned as the town comptroller on January 6 after being hired in August 2012, in tandem with Goldberg, to serve as the financial team for the Arden Administration.
The Notice of Claim says that Goldberg engaged in bullying, discrimination based on gender, illegally read Berland’s personal emails, found out about her pregnancy, and told Arden to fire her. Berland’s pregnancy while she was working for the town ended in a miscarriage.
Berland initially filed a Notice of Claim on January 27 against the same respondents. (Read Berland’s Notice of Claim here: www.allaboutarmonk.com/northcastle/noticeofclaim.html
) The protocol for legal action taken against a municipality is first to file a Notice of Claim that provides an opportunity for a deposition of Faith Berland, which is scheduled for this week. If there is no settlement after that, Jason Berland, Faith Berland’s husband and lawyer, with Beys Stein Mobargha & Berland LLP, says he has the right to file a lawsuit in court.
Supervisor Mike Schiliro says, "The [EEOC] allegations are identical to those in the Notice of Claim filed last month. Unfortunately the Town now has to defend itself in two different forums. The Town's insurer has appointed very experienced counsel for the Town and we are confident that the Town will be successful in defending itself."
The EEOC is a federal agency that specializes in cases of discrimination. It may take months for the agency to decide whether they will take this case. How the EEOC investigates a charge depends on the facts involved. If the EEOC does take the case, Berland says there will be nothing further for him to do, except to cooperate with the investigation. The EEOC becomes the plaintiff and runs an investigation to determine whether there is liability, and whether new hiring programs or anti discrimination policies for town employees should be implemented.
Berland says he would like to see "better training of employees to ensure there is no discrimination, including the training of the Town Administrator and the Town Board members.”
The EEOC may choose not to take the case if they haven’t found any violations, and instead could issue a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue. If this happens, Berland says his wife will exercise her right to sue.
Berland says he first filed a Notice of Claim because if the EEOC does not accept the case, a Notice of Claim is a prerequisite to sue a municipality in state court.
The EEOC website says, if the EEOC finds a violation, they will try to “reach a voluntary settlement with the employer.” If they can not reach a settlement, “the case will be referred to the legal staff who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If they decide to not file a lawsuit, they will send a Notice-of-Right-to Sue.”
Faith Berland’s filing was received by the EEOC on March 4, 2014. The EEOC Form 5 was signed and dated by Faith Berland on February 28, 2014 and was notarized by Jason Berland. The specific boxes of allegations checked off in the DISCRIMINATION BASED ON section are: SEX, RETALIATION, and OTHER (Specify), and the Berlands typed in: PREGNANCY.
When asked what his goal is, Jason Berland says, “Although Faith was damaged, and in her mind, run out of the job, — which had financial consequences — this was never about money. The real goal is that Joan [Goldberg] is removed from her position as Administrator and safeguards are put in place regarding the town’s sensitivity to discrimination and its willingness to not allow discrimination, and have some sort of safeguards that these behaviors don’t happen again. And better hiring [practices]. Clearly the Town [Board] was negligent in hiring Goldberg the first time, and were grossly negligent hiring her a second time.
“At this point, Faith will be seeking fair compensation. Her attorney fees have gotten pretty significant so she will be looking to be made whole. As a resident of the Town of North Castle, and an individual who worked extremely hard for more than a year for the Town, the Town Board has really just buried their heads in the sand to allow this type of behavior to occur. They haven’t stepped up to the plate to do the right thing.”
A good leader takes responsibility for the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Supervisor Schiliro has inherited this situation from the Arden administration. Schiliro has tried to be positive in every Town Board meeting since the beginning of his term on January 1, 2014. Unfortunately, he can’t just sweep this mess under the rug. Berland's relentlessness in clearing one legal hurdle after another, creates a politically tainted landscape that will last several years, or at least through the next election, while voters and taxpayers suffer the consequences.
Ms. Berland’s latest claim is among a series of other claims that have also been filed against the Town of North Castle, its Town Board and Town Administrator Joan Goldberg, all under the legal advisement of same lawyer, Jason Berland. Berland has advised Conroy Hucey, the husband of a North Castle town court employee, Nancy Hall, of White Plains. Hucey filed a racial discrimination complaint after seeking a part-time job with North Castle’s Parks Department. This claim was filed with the EEOC and the New York State Division of Human Rights on December 24, 2013. The case is open and an investigator from the EEOC has been assigned to the case. The process can take up to six months. For further information on Hucey’s EEOC filing, click: www.allaboutarmonk.com/northcastle/townbusiness2014.html
Berland is also legally representing North Castle’s Chief of Police, Geoffrey Harisch, who filed a 17-page Notice of Claim with the Town Clerk's office on January 16, 2014. The claim is also against Joan Goldberg, the Town of North Castle and the North Castle Town Board. Harisch’s case alleges corruption and fraud, efforts to violate his freedom of speech, and to destroy his reputation rather than discrimination, so he will not file any action with the EEOC. Harisch is scheduled for a deposition next week. Jason Berland says Harisch will probably file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks. Read more information about Harisch’s Notice of Claim here: www.allaboutarmonk.com/northcastle/noticeofclaim.html.Comment