Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sussex County municipal lawyer cited by ethics authority for sexual harassment.

04/26/16 Update:  Based on Michael S. Garofalo's stipulation of facts, the Disciplinary Review Board will conduct a hearing on Thursday, June 16, 2016 to determine the quantum of discipline to impose.  State ethics officials "contend that the appropriate discipline is a reprimand based upon the facts of the instant matter and the applicable case law."  The hearing, which is open to the public, will take place at 10 a.m in the Supreme Court Courtroom on the eighth floor of the Hughes Justice Complex at 25 West Market Street, Trenton.  Those who wish to attend should call 609-530-4008 the day prior to the hearing to ensure that it hasn't been postponed.  Refer to Docket No. XIV-2014-0318E.
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On December 8, 2015, the Office of Attorney ethics served a formal complaint upon an attorney who serves as counsel for two Sussex County municipalities.  The complaint charges the attorney with sexually harassing two women who worked at a law firm where the attorney was a partner.

The complaint in Docket No. XIV-2014-0318E charged attorney Michael S. Garofalo, a former partner in the Sparta firm of Laddey, Clark and Ryan, LLP, of stalking one woman and sending inappropriate e-mails to another.  According to telephone conversations with the Sandyston and Montague Township Clerks' offices, Garofalo presently serves as municipal attorney for both.

The first woman, who was employed briefly at Garofalo's law firm in 2005, had "a brief sexual encounter" that year with him and stayed friends with him until 2009.  After that, Garofalo allegedly continued to call and e-mail the woman after she had told him to stop in 2011.  According to the complaint, the e-mails were sexually suggestive and referred to the woman as "love doll," "sex toy" and sweet cheeks."  After his e-mails weren't returned, he allegedly referred to the woman as a "bitch" and an "asshole."  He allegedly told the woman that he loved her and constantly pestered her for sex and to out with him for lunch, drinks after work or on vacation to the Caribbean.

When he realized that the woman was not responding to his advances, Garofalo allegedly ratcheted up the harassment by threatening to send revealing e-mails to her friends unless she agreed to have lunch with her.  The abuse finally caused the woman to file a report with the Parsippany Police Department who told him to cease communicating with the woman.  A little more than two months after having been warned by the police, Garofalo allegedly sent the woman another e-mail.  This e-mail caused the woman to report Garofalo to his law firm which conducted an internal investigation.   The firm ordered Garofalo to not have any further contact with the woman and told Garofalo that unless he reported himself to the Office of Attorney Ethics, the law firm would file an ethics grievance against him.

On May 16, 2014, Garofalo, through his attorney Louis Griscuoli, reported his conduct to ethics authorities.  Yet, Garofalo allegedly used his Sandyston Township e-mail address to contact the woman again on June 26, 2015.  When confronted by ethics authorities about this e-mail, Garofalo allegedly denied sending it but then admitted to having sent it after ethics authorities said they would subpoena Sandyston Township for the e-mail.

The investigation also revealed that Garofalo harassed another firm employee in 2011 by sending her e-mails that referred to her as "sweet cheeks." Although the employee thought that Garofalo's conduct was inappropriate, she elected not to report it.