Cape May County Administrator and Clerk of the Board Elizabeth Bozzelli has sued the county and freeholders E. Marie Hayes and Will Morey, alleging retaliatory harassment over her decision not to give Hayes’ son a job transfer.
Bozzelli filed the lawsuit Sept. 4 under the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act. In it, she says Hayes’ son Lloyd “has been the subject of multiple transfers and verbal warnings” over his poor job performance. After Lloyd Hayes received a new warning in May 2018, Freeholder Hayes began trying to arrange a new job for him to avoid discipline, the suit states.
At that time, Bozzelli told county Human Resources Director Sara Mononey that “they could not move Lloyd Hayes simply because of nepotism,” and the alleged retaliation by Freeholder Hayes began, according to the lawsuit.
Neither Hayes nor Bozzelli could immediately be reached for comment.
The freeholder board in July voted to censure Hayes for alleged conflict of interest in trying to arrange the job transfer, and for her alleged retaliation against Bozzelli when the administrator did not allow it.
Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton, with whom Hayes is running for re-election this year, advocated for the censure.
Last October, Hayes opposed giving Bozzelli the administrator title after Bozzelli blocked her son’s new job, and Bozzelli has alleged it was an act of retaliation. Hayes has said she just didn’t think it was the right move for the county.
But the board voted to give Bozzelli the new title, with only Hayes and Morey voting against her.
Bozzelli has said her responsibilities didn’t change when she got her new title, as she had been doing the administrator’s job since becoming clerk in 2012. Only her title changed, she said, and she subsequently received about a $10,000 to $15,000 raise on a base pay of about $120,000.
According to the lawsuit, in spite of the censure, Hayes and Morey continue to retaliate against Bozzelli and make false statements about her, causing her emotional and other harm.
Bozzelli is asking the court to declare that the defendants have violated state law, that they must alter their files to expunge any unlawful information, and is seeking compensatory damages, noneconomic compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, cost of suit, attorneys fees, enhanced attorney fees and “any other relief the Court deems equitable and just.”
A spokesperson for the two Democrats running against Thornton and Hayes said Wednesday the lawsuit shows “the current shipwreck of an administration.”
Freeholder candidates Liz Casey and Joyce Gould have said 2019 may be the year for Democrats to be elected to a freeholder board that has long been solidly Republican. Gould, a longtime borough commissioner in Wildwood Crest, replaced attorney Steve Barry on the Democratic ticket Aug. 8, after Barry left for health reasons.