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Whistleblower Lawsuit Exposes Alleged Anti-Semitic Practices in Linden, NJ School Hiring

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Whistleblower Lawsuit Exposes Alleged Anti-Semitic Practices in Linden, NJ School Hiring

Edited by: TJVNews.com

In a startling revelation, a recorded conversation has come to light exposing discriminatory hiring practices within the Linden school district, as was reported on Friday on the Matzav.com web site.  The dialogue, involving the mayor of Linden, New Jersey and two school officials, has sparked controversy and legal action, as outlined in recent court documents.
The recorded conversation that took place on January 22m 2024 captures a discussion between Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, School Board President Marlene Berghammer, and Superintendent Atiya Y. Perkins. According to the court documents, the officials expressed their preferences for school hires in a manner that highlights deeply ingrained discriminatory attitudes, according to the information provided in the Matzav.com report.
“If it’s in a neighborhood school district,” Berghammer stated, “we don’t mind if it is a Black person or a Haitian-speaking person.” Matzav.com reported that this statement was followed by a more explicit response from Mayor Armstead, who said, “That’s what has to happen in order to keep our community being taken over by guys with big hats and curls,” a clear reference to the Orthodox Jewish community in Linden.
On Thursday, Paul Oliveira, Linden’s former assistant school superintendent, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in state Superior Court in Union County. Revealed in the shocking Matzav.com report was that Oliveira accused Mayor Armstead, Berghammer, Superintendent Perkins, and other officials of blatant anti-Semitism and deliberate exclusion of Jewish individuals from school employment opportunities.
Oliveira’s lawsuit details systematic efforts to exclude Jewish candidates from consideration for school positions, specifically targeting job candidates of African-American or Haitian descent while excluding Jewish individuals, as was noted in the information contained in the Matzav.com report.
The lawsuit also alleges retaliation against Oliveira for his attempts to address and expose these discriminatory practices. With a 20-year career in the Newark school system, Oliveira claims that his objections to the discriminatory hiring practices led to actions against him that violated New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, according to the information contained in the Matzav.com report.
In response to the lawsuit, Mayor Armstead dismissed the allegations as “hogwash.” He has categorically denied any wrongdoing and suggested that the accusations are baseless. However, Matzav.com noted that the recorded conversation and the detailed claims in Oliveira’s lawsuit present a compelling case that has already drawn significant public and legal attention.
This case arises at a time of heightened awareness and sensitivity to issues of discrimination and diversity in education and employment. The allegations of anti-Semitism and targeted exclusion are particularly troubling in a community that prides itself on inclusivity and diversity. The outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for how similar cases are handled and the measures taken to ensure fair and equitable hiring practices.
Armen McOmber, Oliveira’s attorney, has called the accusations “deeply concerning.” According to McOmber, the complaint alleges that Mayor Armstead and members of the school district “engaged in illegal and anti-Semitic hiring practices” and that the Linden Board of Education “unlawfully allowed Mayor Armstead to handpick candidates for open positions, as was detailed in the Matzav.com report. This practice, as the lawsuit contends, was part of a broader agenda to prevent the hiring of Jewish individuals in an effort to control the demographic makeup of the community.
In this recording, Armstead expressed his concerns about the demographic changes in Linden, suggesting that the community could “go the same way as Roselle, Irvington, Newark” if hiring practices were not tightly controlled.
“It’s a … over there from top to bottom,” Armstead said in the recording of the phone conversation, according to Matzav.com. “Because it’s been mismanaged for years, you know, and nobody, nobody’s taking the time to try to figure out how to fix it.”
Much of the discussion in the meeting centered around prioritizing local candidates for school positions. Indicated in the Matzav.com report was that Armstead emphasized that hiring local candidates was essential to maintaining control over the community’s demographic composition.
McOmber’s statements highlight the gravity of the accusations, suggesting that the Linden Board of Education’s complicity in allowing the mayor to influence hiring decisions is a critical aspect of the lawsuit. The legal action seeks to address these alleged illegal practices and hold the involved parties accountable.
Armstead also expressed frustration over a prospective maintenance worker who missed training and subsequently sold his house to a member of the Jewish community, the Matzav.com report said. “Moved out of town,” Armstead said. “He sold his house to the guys with the big hats and the curls too. So, you know, everybody’s undermining the progress we’re trying to make here in town.”
Armstead emphasized Linden’s inclusive community spirit, stating, “Everyone is welcome here in Linden. It’s our strength. I don’t care if you’re Jewish, Black, white, or Latino. We get along well in Linden.”
Armstead also suggested that school employment data would refute Oliveira’s claims, although the lawsuit does not specify if any hiring decisions were directly influenced by the January discussion. Matzav.com also reported that he further criticized Oliveira, saying, “Paul is off his rocker. I can’t fathom why he would take this approach. It’s disheartening. Paul can go to hell with gasoline drawers as far as I’m concerned.”
Regarding the recordings, Armstead acknowledged their existence but dismissed their significance. “I’m glad he has me on tape. We are a good community, and we all get along with everyone in this town,” he said. “Nobody respects someone who comes into a room and starts tape recording people.”
The lawsuit, represented by Joseph Garcia of Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs in Oakland, asserts that Mayor Armstead’s involvement in school hiring was not only improper but also illegal. It claims that by directing Oliveira to hire specific candidates, the Linden school district effectively relinquished its responsibility to make independent hiring decisions to the mayor, the Matzav.com report noted.  This action is described in the lawsuit as “the illegal practice of abrogating its responsibility to hire its own employees.”
“Of course, (Armstead), in his capacity as mayor, could not and should not have been directing (Linden) as to who should be hired for certain positions in the Linden School District,” the lawsuit states, highlighting that his directives “went well beyond the scope” of his authority.
Mayor Armstead has defended his actions, citing a “close relationship” between his administration and the Board of Education. Also mentioned in the Matzav.com report was that he noted that he supported Oliveira’s hiring based on a councilman’s recommendation. However, the lawsuit challenges the legitimacy of this relationship, suggesting it led to undue influence over the school district’s hiring processes.
Central to the lawsuit are allegations that the directives from Armstead and other officials marginalized Jewish candidates, allowing selective hiring based on unlawful criteria. The complaint argues that these practices were part of a broader strategy to exclude Jewish individuals from employment opportunities within the school district.
Oliveira claimed that he voiced his objections to these practices, expressing his discomfort to Superintendent Atiya Y. Perkins. “I don’t feel comfortable doing this,” he told Perkins, according to the lawsuit. Matzav.com also reported that in a subsequent discussion, Oliveira recounted an instance where Berghammer was asked if the district could face legal action over the hiring plan. Perkins reportedly responded, “Yes,” and when asked why, another official allegedly said, “because technically that is discrimination.”
Despite his objections, Oliveira alleged that he faced retaliation, including negative performance reviews and the creation of a hostile work environment. The report on the Matzav.com web site also said that  this environment, he claims, led to severe stress and anxiety, ultimately causing him to take medical leave. Oliveira resigned from his position, citing “constructive dismissal” due to the intolerable working conditions.



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