A sexual harassment suit has been filed against assemblyman and former Union City Mayor Raul “Rudy” Garcia in Hudson County Superior Court by Deborah Reed, a Union City resident who served as Garcia’s legislative aide and as the executive director of the Union City Democratic Organization.
The civil lawsuit, filed Nov. 16, is suing Garcia for compensatory and punitive damages, counsel fees and “such other relief that the court may deem just and proper on four counts; assault and battery, harassment, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
The case refers to an incident that allegedly took place during the 1999 League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City at the DeJaVu Night Club on the last evening of the conference. The conference took place between Nov. 16 and Nov. 19, 1999.
The complaint alleges that Garcia had been “heavily drinking” and “inappropriately stared at the Plaintiff’s clothing and breasts.” It goes on to state that the assemblyman continually groped Reed and made inappropriate suggestions to her.
Jacqueline DeGregorio, a partner in the Parsippany-based law firm of Weiner and Lesniak, where Garcia is also a partner, said Thursday that this is a “meritless lawsuit.”
“This suit is the result of a political conspiracy against Assemblyman Garcia,” said DeGregorio, who is representing Garcia. “And we are fully prepared to prove that at trial.”
An official with the state attorney general’s press office confirmed that Garcia has filed a letter of request for representation from the attorney general in this matter. The office has asked the legislature to perform an investigation into the claim. A decision as to whether the office will represent Garcia will be made after the investigation is completed.
The official said that the investigation into the case is standard procedure for all requests and that there is no time limit on the investigation.
Reed is being represented by Alan L. Zegas and Sharon Kean of the Law Offices of Alan L. Zegas in Chatham, N.J. Neither could be reached for comment last week.
The complaint describes three encounters between Reed and Garcia throughout the evening of Nov. 18, 1999 and makes mention of other colleagues present during these encounters.
“Garcia put his arm around the Plaintiff pulled her close to him and began groping her hair, arms, shoulders and hands,” the complaint states. “He forcefully pressed his face against the plaintiff’s and whispered in her ear while touching her ears with his lips.”
The complaint goes on to read, “The Plaintiff confided with others in her party that defendant’s conduct made her extremely uncomfortable and nervous.”
The second encounter took place about 30 minutes later, according to the complaint. During this encounter, Garcia allegedly “grabbed [Reed] and physically and sexually assaulted her by forcefully placing his arm under her jacket and around her waist. [Garcia] then grabbed plaintiff’s breast.”
“This time [Garcia] made outrageously detailed propositions to Plaintiff about his perverted lesbian sexual fantasies and exactly how [Reed] would play into them,” the complaint charges.
The third encounter allegedly took place after Reed had asked her colleagues to assist Garcia back to his hotel. “While being assisted back to the hotel, [Garcia] again forcefully grabbed [Reed] around the waist, pulled her close to him, touched her breasts and repeated his vulgar comments about his lesbian sexual fantasies,” the complaint charges.
Reed alleges that at this time, Garcia offered her money in return for her giving in to his advances.
“When this occurred, Defendant had to be physically restrained from [Reed] and he was placed onto an elevator by one of Defendant’s colleagues,” the suit states.
On all three encounters, the complaint says that Reed dismissed his advances and at one time told Garcia that his conduct was “out of line and pleaded with him to stop.”
More legal troubles
Garcia is no stranger to legal troubles. Over the past year, the Attorney General’s Office subpoenaed records pertaining all of the now-defunct Union City Democratic Organization’s financial transactions; any Board of Education records pertaining to the UCDO, and the records of the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone. All were records pertaining to the time that Garcia sat as Chairman of the UCDO and as mayor of Union City. However, the Attorney General’s office has not commented on what they are investigating these records.
Rumors several months ago suggested that Board of Education computers had been confiscated from UCDO headquarters by the Attorney General’s office, and numerous Board of Education officials have testified before the Grand Jury.
Garcia faced a recall movement against his office of mayor, which led to his resigning from office in October.