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UPDATE: Habel, Brower Fired People To Cover Up Sex Abuse Case, Suit Claims

The employees say their job changes were part of a cover-up of a possible sex-abuse case that the two former Wall school officials failed to report

James F. Habel (l.) and Sandra Brower
James F. Habel (l.) and Sandra Brower
First, the courts spoke, saying Sandra Brower and James Habel broke the law.

Now their ex-employees have fired the next salvo, saying the former Wall school officials conspired to fire them, and therefore shield themselves in a cover-up of a possible sex-abuse case.

Three former Wall School District employees have sued former Assistant Superintendent Sandra Brower for wrongful termination or demotion, saying they were punished because they knew about Brower's alleged attempts to cover up a possible sex-abuse case.

The lawsuit, filed July 10 in state Superior Court in Monmouth County, also names former Wall Superintendent James F. Habel as a defendant. Brower, who is now Lacey superintendent, and Habel both have been indicted on misconduct charges in separate cases.

Brower was initially charged and arraigned in the case of failing to notify authorities of possible abuse in May 2009, when a 4-year-old Wall special needs student said a teacher took him into the bathroom at a “district special education school” and "inappropriately touched his privates," the Monmouth County indictment says. Brower has pleaded not guilty and refused to resign from Lacey, though she has been suspended without pay.

In the suit, three employees with knowledge of the potential cover-up - Tina Gordon, former Wall assistant superintendent; and Virginia Pagnoni and Stephanie Ham, two confidential secretaries - say they were terminated, transferred or forced to resign after the 2009 incident.

The suit says Brower "made false and misleading statements" to Wall police officers who were investigating the possible sex-abuse case. In an effort to conceal her involvement, Brower directed Wall school officials to "extract" emails from employees who had knowledge of the incident.

The suit says Habel, who has pleaded not guilty to charges including official misconduct, money laundering, theft and falsifying records, threatened each employee with termination, non-renewal of their contracts, tenure charges and the possibility of losing their pensions.

Efforts to obtain comment from Habel and Brower, as well as the plaintiff's attorneys, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Lacey Board of Education members suspended Brower in May after
she was charged in an indictment with second-degree official misconduct, third-degree hindering apprehension and fourth-degree obstruction for failing to immediately report the Wall teacher's possible sexual assault while she was that district's assistant superintendent. 

Authorities have said Habel took more than $400,000 from the district by claiming he worked when he was actually out of state, and taking actions to falsify vacation and other records. Prosecutors also have charged him with mortgage fraud, based on statements he allegedly made to banks regarding the mortgages on his house in Florida and his previous home in Point Pleasant.

Brower's contract with the Lacey Township school district technically runs until July 1, 2016, although it could end sooner than that, Board Attorney Arthur Stein said.

"She is still in a contract," Stein said Tuesday. "We don't have the power to appoint another superintendent."

But depending upon court proceedings in Monmouth County, Brower's contract could end before that.
Spooner July 25, 2013 at 05:47 PM
proud-don't follow your logic. I think the prosecution would call them, including the board attorney to support their allegations regarding the telephone calls as listed in the complaint; and as I said, if they were complicit in the cover up, then why would they imprecate themselves. It's my contention that Brower called the Wall Bd(4 calls- a total of 12 minutes, starting at 7:25AM - 9:32 AM), Superintendent Habel, and the Board attorney, for advise on what to do. That would be her defense. . .she was acting on instructions from others. She talked to Habel starting at 8:44AM for 19 minutes, then she talked to the Board attorney starting at 9:39AM for 15 minutes. That was after she talked to the Wall Board again, starting at 9:32AM for 7 minutes. The last call listed was to the IT Director starting at 10:30AM( for 15 minutes), and that was after she spoke with the Wall Board and the Board attorney.
proud July 25, 2013 at 06:23 PM
The question @Spooner is who knew what and when. I told you months back that people would be throwing each other under the bus left and right. So many had an obligation to report via the MOA, yet it wasn't done until 2 in the afternoon the following day. Either the truth come out in testimony, or we'll never know. IF Habel did what the suit alleges, and the board was aware of it, they should all be put in the racks in the town square.
ED July 28, 2013 at 12:09 AM
I love all the people who go back and fourth on what they think happened or did not happen. Bottom line is, I am very disappointed. All I know is all these high paying administrators who is getting caught red handed is a disgrace. All these high profiling educational cases being reported by the media on all these educators is true. They are not making it all up, It is their job. It has become a common practice and the reason majority of the public has loss faith in the educational system itself. I can't help to question what is going on in all these schools? It is obvious none of them is doing the right thing as far as I am concerned. The schools have become lies and zero accountability. The entire industry is being questioned because of the lack of any creditability at all. It is to the point the public views the schools as a joke.
ED July 28, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Hopefully someone gets to the bottom of all the nonsense that has been going on in the Wall System. It is now their turn. This is hurting the students and the tax paying residents as myself. Do what should be done to change the educational system around before its to late. Someone needs to step in do what is right for all these students. Start by getting rid of any educator that is not doing their job. Begin with the superintendent,administrators who should have control of what is taking place. It shouldn't be this hard to get rid of someone who is not doing their jobs. Anyone who is caught doing and making inappropriate decisions needs to lose their employment, pensions and benefits. The End.
proud July 28, 2013 at 07:12 AM
Alas @Ed, it may already be too late.

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