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Former Sussex County Democratic Chair Katie Rotindi

Rotondi attacks Kreibich for making Palmieri accusations a campaign issue

Candidate’s campaign, surrogates hit Gottheimer over Warren chairman’s endorsement

By Nikita Biryukov, June 22 2020 4:14 pm

Katie Rotondi attacked Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich after the House candidate leveraged the former Sussex County Democratic chairwoman’s sexual harassment allegations against her Warren County counterpart in a strike against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff).

“I find it beyond abhorrent that CD-5 Congressional candidate, Arati Kreibich, is using her campaign to exploit the sexual harassment I and others endured from Tom Palmieri,” Rotondi said in a statement provided to the New Jersey Globe.

In May, Rotondi accused Tom Palmieri of sexually harassing her, claiming, among other things, that the Warren County Democratic chairman joked about drugging her drink at a fundraiser held at Gov. Phil Murphy’s home.

Politico New Jersey, which first reported Rotondi’s accusations, in June reported another three woman were accusing Palmieri of harassment.

Now, Alexander Deatrick, Kreibich’s campaign manager, and Laura Occhipinti, a Bergen County freeholder candidate bracketing with the councilwoman, have launched attacks at Gottheimer over Palmieri, who has endorsed Gottheimer, as have Rotondi and the fifth district’s other Democratic county chairs.

“Hey @JoshGottheimer maybe you should take sexual harasser Tom Palmieri off your endorsement list?” Deitrick said on Twitter.

Rotondi saw it as a purely political move.

“I did not receive support from Arati Kreibich, Laura Occhipinti or Alexander Deatrick — privately or publicly,” Rotondi said. “If these individuals actually honored victims or cared about what Tom did to me, then they would have reached out to me after I came forward and asked me what would be helpful. Instead, they chose to re-victimize me publicly without my consent.”

Deitrick said Kreibich’s campaign did publicly back Rotondi and Palmieri’s other accusers.

“Arati was actually the only candidate to say publicly at the time that she believed the women speaking out,” he said, pointing to a June 8 tweet Kreibich sent that said “believe women” and linked the second Politico story.

After Rotondi’s allegations were first made public, Palmieri marshaled more than 20 Democratic women to his defense, a move that drew criticism from Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg’s ad hoc committee, which warned Palmieri’s defenders against a rush to judgement.

Some defended Palmieri purely on the basis of character, while others claimed Rotondi’s allegations were meant to distract from troubles in her home county, where the then-chairwoman was facing a challenge for control of the county party.

Rotondi was ousted from her position as county chair by Dawne Rowe earlier this month. In February, 65 members of the Sussex County Democratic Committee pushed for Rotondi’s resignation, claiming she had created a poisonous environment. Rotondi acknowledged personality clashes with some other Democratic leaders.

But that experience hasn’t caused her to turn away from Gottheimer.

“As a proud progressive woman I can tell you that there is absolutely nothing progressive about manipulating the experience of a victim for political gain, which is precisely what Arati Kreibich, Laura Occhipinti, and Alexander Deatrick are doing,” Rotondi said. “Shame on all of you. You owe me and the other women that Tom sexually harassed an apology.”

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