EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A whistleblower lawsuit filed Thursday morning against Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner alleges gender discrimination, retaliation and other illicit behavior.
Two former and one current employee of the Prosecutor’s Office allege Tyner demoted high-ranking women while giving men raises, paid newly hired women at a lower rate, covered up complaints of gender discrimination and spoke in a derogatory fashion about women in general, according to the 90-plus-page suit filed in Atlantic County Superior Court.
In response, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office posted a statement from Tyner on its Facebook page.
“It is apparent that the plaintiffs are living in an alternative universe,” the statement said. “The very same conduct they accuse me and the members of my administration of committing was actually carried out by them and others during their brief, ineffective period of leadership of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. I am disappointed that this has drawn attention away from all of the important work that the women and men of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office accomplish on a daily basis.”
Former Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton and former Lt. Heather McManus, along with the two lawyers who represent them, Michelle Douglass and Philip Burnham, gave an hourlong news conference detailing the allegations in the suit. Assistant Prosecutor Donna Fetzer, the third plaintiff in the suit, is still employed at the Prosecutor’s Office and was not present.
Also named in the suit are the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Atlantic County and prosecutors Cary Shill and Mario Formica.
In addition to allegations of gender discrimination, the three women claim Tyner was involved in mortgage fraud, failed to investigate a claim that a police officer was leaking confidential information about the April Kauffman murder case and failed to tell defense counsel about the possible leak, fired employees to hire his brother and refused to investigate after an assistant prosecutor exchanged advice via texts to a defendant in a pending domestic violence case.
“It’s time, we believe, collectively, for our county to stop living in the days of Jim Crow gender discrimination, and it’s a time for the county to embrace the idea, indeed to make room for competent women who deserve a place at the leadership roles in our county,” Douglass said.
The suit also claims that Shill and Tyner dismissed a criminal prosecution against an individual with close ties to the Atlantic City Democratic Party.
The women are seeking equitable damages, including reinstatement and promotional opportunities, Douglass said.
“We also seek a full accounting within the Prosecutor’s Office, so that we can determine the pay scale, the wages that are earned by men and women who hold similar job duties,” she said. “Primarily, we’re seeking to put this right.”
The lawsuit comes after the three women sent a complaint in October asking the New Jersey Attorney General’s and U.S. Attorney’s offices to investigate Tyner for the same actions they allege in their suit.
Douglass said she believes there is a continuing investigation by the attorney general into the Prosecutor’s Office but deferred further comment to that office.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office said it is their policy to neither confirm nor deny investigations.