Sexual Harassment Charge Lands in the Middle of Manville Mayor’s Race

The Manville Borough Council.

The former administrator for the Borough of Manville is suing the Borough and the four council people who voted for her termination, including the Democratic Party’s candidate for mayor, whom she says sexually harassed her on the job.

In a complaint filed last week in Somerset County Superior Court, Andrea Wardrop of Hillsborough alleges that Councilman Philip “Phil” Petrone (pictured above, far right) made numerous comments in borough hall about women’s cleavage, hugged and kissed office workers without their consent, insisted to women in the administrative offices that he would not leave without a hug and kiss, and walked behind Waldrop’s desk “on multiple occasions” and asked her if her legs were insured.

According to the October 8th complaint, Wardrop said she was embarrassed by Petrone’s behavior and received complaints from women in her office that the councilman’s actions were “unwelcome and that he made them feel uncomfortable.” On another occasion, after he returned from a trip to Las Vegas, the former administrator allegedly showed pictures of “scantily-clad showgirls” to women in Wardrop’s office and described them as the next Manville Police Office hires.

After complaining to Mayor Richard Onderko (pictured above, center) – the Republican incumbent on the coming Nov. 5th Ballot and Petrone’s rival for the job – Wardrop affirmed that people at Borough Hall spoke to the councilman about his inappropriate behavior. At the request of Councilwoman (now Council President) Michelle Magnani, the council had to participate in an ethics/harrassment training class, which they did on September 10, 2018. At the suggestion of the county prosecutor, moreover, Wardrop had a security camera installed and a keyed lock changed to a coded one.

The administrator said that while Petrone’s harrassing behavior ceased, she sensed his resentment. He asked on several occasions about whether the camera was on and complained about the lock. He was, she said, “childish and petty.” According to her complaint, Petrone had his son file an OPRA to request the amont of money paid for the new lock.

Subsequent to Wardrop gathering information about the council’s choice for borough attorney, who was not the mayor’s choice, and making the argument that during past employment with the borough he had improperly presented himself as a full-time employee and thereby received a full-time employee’s health benefits, Petrone publicly expressed anger over the administrator’s investigation. The Courier News documented that part of this case here. The council voted to approve their choice for borough attorney over the mayor’s opposition. According to her complaint, Wardrop maintained that the former borough attorney was not elligible for full-time benefits, and faced “retaliatory abuse from the councilmembers opposed to her actions.”

Petrone was one of two councilmen who went to the mayor asking for Wardrop’s removal from her $105K-per year job. Onderko refused. In May, the council voted 4-1 to terminate Wardrop. In her suit, she is seeking compensatory damages, front pay, back pay, emotional distress and punitive damages, resonable attorney’s fees, cost of suit, additional relief.

Neither Petrone nor Onderko responded to emails for comment.









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