Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Six current and former employees of the Long Branch Housing Authority filed a lawsuit against the agency on Feb. 22 in Essex County, New Jersey, alleging that its former chief of staff repeatedly engaged in sexual propositioning and harassment. Tyrone Garrett, who is now the executive director of the DC Housing Authority, but helmed LBHA at the time of the alleged harassment, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The employees allege that the agency’s then-chief of staff, Daniel Gibson, engaged in “persistent stalking, sexual propositioning, sexually explicit questions and comments, and unwelcome physical touching and assault” that began in 2007. The lawsuit, which was first reported by the Asbury Park Press, also claims that Gibson and Garrett—who previously worked together at the Newark Housing Authority—were “close friends.”

New Jersey’s Park Press reports:

Complaints against Gibson were first lodged by employees to the LBHA in January 2018. Gibson was briefly suspended during an internal investigation, according to the lawsuit.

He was then allowed to resign from his job in June 2018 even after the investigation found that he “violated traditional norms of appropriate workforce behavior,” according to the lawsuit. 

A spokesperson for the Long Branch Housing Authority did not immediately respond to City Paper‘s request for comment.

Through a spokesperson, Garrett sent City Paper the following emailed statement: “People deserve to work and live in supportive, safe environments. I have championed policies and practices that advance the highest of these standards. I do not condone nor tolerate hostile working or residential environments. I have, and always will, demand that all employees are held accountable for their actions and those that are inconsistent with policies, anti-discrimination laws and regulations will be handled in accordance with the policies consistent with human dignity and respect.”

The employees claim that Garrett “was fully aware of […] Gibson’s conduct and purposely looked the other way,” and that he “failed to take any steps in stopping [Gibson’s] unlawful conduct or taking any remedial measures to address the hostile and unsafe work environment.” The lawsuit further alleges that the Authority fostered a “retaliatory and hostile working environment.”

One plaintiff alleges that Gibson held her over a toilet and attempted to rape her, firing her shortly after the attack. Others allege that he offered them money for sex, made lewd comments about their bodies, and bought them underwear, among a string of other similar complaints.

The Park Press also reports that the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights investigated LBHA in 2016 and found that the Authority “failed to maintain adequate anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies under the state’s Law Against Discrimination.”

Garrett began working at the Long Branch Housing Authority in 2001, and became the director of the DC Housing Authority in the fall of 2017.

Read a copy of the 46-page complaint here

This article has been updated with a statement from Tyrone Garrett.