UPDATE: Habel, Brower Fired People To Cover Up Sex Abuse Case, Suit Claims

The employees say their job changes were part of a cover-up of a possible Wall sex-abuse case that Brower, now Lacey superintendent, failed to report

Former Wall Superintendent James F. Habel (l.) and Lacey Superintendent Sandra Brower
Former Wall Superintendent James F. Habel (l.) and Lacey Superintendent Sandra Brower
Three former Wall School District employees have sued Lacey Superintendent Sandra Brower for wrongful termination or demotion, saying they were punished because they knew about Brower's alleged attempts to cover up a possible Wall sex-abuse case.

The lawsuit, filed July 10 in state Superior Court in Monmouth County, also names former Wall Superintendent James F. Habel as a defendant. Brower, who previously worked as Habel's assistant superintendent, and Habel both have been indicted on misconduct charges in separate cases.

Brower was initially charged and arraigned in the case of failing to notify authorities of possible abuse in May 2009, when a 4-year-old special needs student said a teacher took him into the bathroom at a “district special education school” and "inappropriately touched his privates," the Monmouth County indictment says. Brower has pleaded not guilty and refused to resign, though she has been suspended without pay.

In the suit, three employees with knowledge of the potential cover-up - Tina Gordon, former Wall assistant superintendent; and Virginia Pagnoni and Stephanie Ham, two confidential secretaries - say they were terminated, transferred or forced to resign after the 2009 incident.

The suit says Brower "made false and misleading statements" to Wall police officers who were investigating the possible sex-abuse case. In an effort to conceal her involvement, Brower directed Wall school officials to "extract" emails from employees who had knowledge of the incident.

The suit says Habel, who has pleaded not guilty to charges including official misconduct, money laundering, theft and falsifying records, threatened each employee with termination, non-renewal of their contracts, tenure charges and the possibility of losing their pensions.

Efforts to obtain comment from Habel and Brower, as well as the plaintiff's attorneys, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Lacey Board of Education members suspended Brower in May after
she was charged in an indictment with second-degree official misconduct, third-degree hindering apprehension and fourth-degree obstruction for failing to immediately report the Wall teacher's possible sexual assault while she was that district's assistant superintendent. 

Authorities have said Habel took more than $400,000 from the district by claiming he worked when he was actually out of state, and taking actions to falsify vacation and other records. Prosecutors also have charged him with mortgage fraud, based on statements he allegedly made to banks regarding the mortgages on his house in Florida and his previous home in Point Pleasant.

Brower's contract with the Lacey Township school district technically runs until July 1, 2016, although it could end sooner than that, Board Attorney Arthur Stein said.

"She is still in a contract," Stein said Tuesday. "We don't have the power to appoint another superintendent."

But depending upon court proceedings in Monmouth County, Brower's contract could end before that.

Michael Capo July 24, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I think the going rate to make sexual harassment suits go away is $140,000. Thats what the mayor of tr gave to a secretary who aledged harassment.
4Liberty July 24, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Sued For Wrongful Termination! When are those young Lacey teachers candidates that were screwed over by her going to sue? I hope they don't stop with her. The BOE members who allowed her to rule with a self serving agenda need to be sued as well.
Radnorite July 24, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Where is that guy who kept saying these charges were baseless? Pretty quiet now.
proud July 24, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Wow! This gets more and more interesting. The Star Ledger reported that the Wall Township School District was named in the civill suit because they were aware of the strong arming of the employees because they were aware of the cover up. See for yourselves: Former Wall school employees file wrongful termination suit for ... www.nj.com/.../former_wall_school_employees_file_wrongful_ter... by Ashley Peskoe - in 76 Google+ circles 4 hours ago - The Wall Township Board of Education is also named in the civil lawsuit, alleging that the board knew what Habel and Brower were doing.
Ken July 25, 2013 at 07:24 AM
Wow and here I thought only Toms River had these type of cover ups. Although I think other schools can learn how to cover things up better and longer if they took lessons from Toms River school district.
Concerned Lacey Taxpayer July 25, 2013 at 08:23 AM
It is time we vote out the incumbents Linda Downing and Frank Palino, we need new individuals on the board that can vote on personnel issues - (Mrs Downing has to abstain her son-in-law teaches @ the MS). Look at your property tax statement we are paying a lot of money to send our kids to poorly rated schools. Get out and vote this Nov. and vote in individuals that will make fiscally sound decisions that focus on improving our schools. Palino and Downing need to go!
proud July 25, 2013 at 08:32 AM
Anyone that is, or that has an immediate family member that is a public taker, should be recognized as conflicted.
1stcav July 25, 2013 at 09:10 AM
What IS the job of our payed County Superintendents , if not to oversee all districts in the county ??? If you can't go to YOUR supervistor or Super with a complaint because you fear repercusions may be taken against you , then the COUNTY Super should step in with HIS investagation and MAKE adjustments....recomendatios or call in Law enforcement..These Supers rule their own little town or village and everyone has to kiss there behind or fear for there jobs..this is BS and there on a power TRIP !!!!!!NEED more oversight and the said BOE elected officers SHOULD do there JOBS or resign...
Abby Normal July 25, 2013 at 09:19 AM
@Yates: some mandates are necessary, like provisions for ESL, special education, and early childhood education. Then there are some, like the billions spent on testing, test prep, test prep materials, hours of PD for testing, millions spent on data mining companies, PD for disaggregating the data, data reports, WHEN an effective teacher can tell you much of this IF asked, and they are never asked anymore. You want school budgets to go down, stop the testing and data madness. Not everything that matters can be measured, and what can be measured doesn't always matter. As for effective teachers, find the ones that are NOT politically connected, and those are the ones earning their paychecks. From what I've seen, the connected ones, not so much. End nepotism and cronyism, and the VAST majority of these issues will go away.
Robert Yates July 25, 2013 at 09:29 AM
@Abby Normal: I pretty much agree with your entire post other than your first sentence. The feds have no constitutional authority to pass any legislation regarding education and you are well aware of my opinion that all schooling should be private, so obviously I can not agree with your first sentence. Given the system though, the rest of your post seems sound, especially the points re: nepotism and cronyism. Proud also makes a super point. Did the intrepid souls that abstained from voting on matters regarding the super abstain from voting on all budgetary matters, as these also would present a conflict, no?
grace July 25, 2013 at 09:38 AM
is her maiden name ritacco? geez sounds more and more like toms river and their debacle, what a shame that power leads to corruption in our schools
Abby Normal July 25, 2013 at 09:39 AM
@Yates: I am more aligned with Thomas Jefferson on matters of a free public education: http://jschell.myweb.uga.edu/history/legis/jeffersonuniversal.htm I also want to live with educated people, otherwise we'll have first world living next to third world and societies like that - Mexico comes to mind - breeds very undesirable outcomes.
Abby Normal July 25, 2013 at 09:50 AM
Oh, by the way, those "voucher" schools and charter schools, they do not have this type of accountability but you can bet your sweet caboose they are just loooooooving your sweet sweet tax dollars for their profit. If you don't understand how they profit, start reading the Jersey Jazzman blog. Christie and Cerf are just their ferrymen.
Robert Yates July 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM
@Abby Normal: while TJ indeed possessed a fierce intellect, he was also a first class hypocrite (try figuring out how the Declaration of Independence squares with slave ownership or how his positions on fiscal responsibility square with the enormous personal debt that he left to the public or perhaps try squaring his position on coercively funded public education with his fierce support for religious liberty and opposition to state sponsored religion. And you keep repeating the same false mantra that if we do not have public education, people won't be educated. This is about as accurate as your belief that civility would disintegrate without a police force. These are myths to bolster the power and control of the state; nothing more. Lastly, as an opponent of any government intervention in schooling, I am opposed to vouchers as well. I know that doesn't fit too neatly into your left right dichotomy, but that is precisely the dichotomy we need to break out of. We need to start embracing liberty, that great engine of ingenuity and prosperity. Oh and before you use Mexico as an example of an uneducated population, you might want to consult with a Mexican and ask them what they think the problem is: I did precisely this on my last business trip and was informed (by a bone fide liberal no less) that it was the overweening bureaucracy and violent sway of the teachers unions. So, go figure o that one.
proud July 25, 2013 at 10:33 AM
I am so dismayed that my comments continually disappear.
Abby Normal July 25, 2013 at 11:03 AM
I'm sure @Yates, that each of us can find examples to soupport our POV. Would India be a better example for their lack of unions? Their poverty and caste system prevents many from getting an education because of the family they were born to, they will never be able to afford it. I'll take our system any day over what I see in other countries, especially in China and Japan with their post-exam suicides.
Abby Normal July 25, 2013 at 11:03 AM
proud July 25, 2013 at 11:23 AM
@Abby, please leave the post exam issue out of this.
casual observer July 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM
I am confused by the first sentence of this article...."First, the courts spoke, saying Sandra Brower and James Habel broke the law." Have the courts actually ruled on this case already? Or have they just been charged?
Robert Yates July 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM
@Abby Normal: I suppose India would be a slightly better example, but as you pointed out, the problem is their caste system, the subsequent poverty and their disregard for those less fortunate. In other words, the problem is their lack of freedom. It is not their lack of public schools. Like I have said before, education is invaluable. But so is liberty. They can exists together. I'll take the system in the US too, but the one in place prior to 1900. Incidentally this applies to the country as well. It was a great system until progressiveism and socialism started taking it over in the early 1900s.
Favorite Teacher July 25, 2013 at 11:53 AM
NJ received a waiver from NCLB last year
proud July 25, 2013 at 12:17 PM
@Educated girl, I understand your confusion. The case has not been adjudicated. Currently, Habel and Brower are under indictment, as a Grand Jury found there to be enough evidence to do so, on a slew of charges.
grace July 25, 2013 at 04:30 PM
really if the mayor just cut her a check to go away because it was true thats very sad...i wonder from any law enforcement people how they feel about the covering up from the chief of police in toms river also?
proud July 25, 2013 at 04:48 PM
I really don't think the mayor cut her a check. Likely, it was an insurance settlement, but I really don't remember.
proud July 25, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Silverton PHONY!
proud July 26, 2013 at 11:20 AM
I was just glancing at a local rag which had an article on a successful Solar Project down in Barnegat. The district leased the rooftops to the panel owners and are appreciating Ana almost forty percent energy savings without nailing the taxpayers for 19 million (eight of which was pocketed). Too bad Savage and Martenak were so hell bent on being arbitragors in the SREC market. A bad gamble , but, hey-- it wasn't their money.
grace July 26, 2013 at 04:17 PM
proud thats another great idea! use the old power plant land idk
proud July 26, 2013 at 05:20 PM
It has been suggested, but the problem that has occurred elsewhere in similar situations, is that the tree hungers jump all over it. No doubt (based on history) that it would happen on that property as well.
proud October 03, 2013 at 11:26 AM
Resign! Superstorm Sandy! Do it for the kids.
proud October 26, 2013 at 06:07 AM
Does anyone no the outcome of the court appearance that was scheduled yesterday, October25, 2013, for Super Sandy with Benefits Brower?


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