A powerful union leader who is mulling a run for State Senate in the 21st district has pushed back claims that he didn’t stop another union official form treating a female employee aggressively before firing her.
“First and foremost, it is important for my position to be clear: sexual assault, harassment, misogyny and discrimination of any kind are not ever tolerated by me personally or at the NJ FMBA,” said Eddie Donnelly, the president of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association.
Donnelly is exploring a Senate bid for the seat six-term incumbent Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) said he would give up at the end of the year.
“These abhorrent behaviors have dominated workplaces for far too long and it is of critical importance that we continue to work to ensure women are safe and supported whether they work in union halls or in the halls of the Statehouse,” Donnelly said.
Jessica Bagniewski filed a lawsuit in October alleging that Troy Powell, the union treasurer, treated her in a “possessive and predatory manner,” that stared at her constantly “in a sexual way and sometimes in an angry way,” that he “had a tendency to get drunk, turn red, and become aggressive,” and that he would put his hand on her shoulders “so that she could not move away.”
She claimed that Powell made her do personal errands, including caring for his dog and picking up his dry cleaning.
In her lawsuit, Bagniewski said that Donnelly regularly showed her text messages that Powell sent him about her.
Donnelly told the New Jersey Globe that his union has “employment procedures and protocols which are strictly followed, including the immediate retention of an investigator who is responsible for reviewing workplace complaints, investigating the facts and issuing a determination.”
“The investigator, a professional attorney with decades of experience in complex workplace disputes, is completely and totally independent of myself, the NJ FMBA and its members,” he said. “The investigation of this matter found that the allegations and charges made were unfounded.”
The lawsuit was first reported by POLITICO.
The lone announced candidate for the Senate seat is Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello.
“I’m not the one who leaked it to POLITICO,” Signorello said.
In Union Township, where Donnelly is employed as a firefighter, the mayor sung his praises.
“I’ve always had a productive relationship with Donnelly,” said Mayor Michele Delisort. “He has secured millions in government funds for the township. He’s a great steward in our community.”
Delisort, who said she was familiar with the accusations in the lawsuit, has no reservations in backing Donnelly for the Senate, if he decides to run.
“He’s never exhibited any belligerent behavior. He’s been professional. I support him,” Delisort said.