Councilwoman Sadrakula Removed From Civil Rights Committee After Staff Accusation of Racism
The August 16th Council Meeting began with a list of city business including the bid contract for a snow melter system, the next phase of the improvement to the city’s communication system, the Phase III redevelopment plan for the former Hoffman-La Roche campus including a new supermarket as well as approvals for an End of Summer Party and the St. John Kanty annual picnic.
However, discussion for new business included a letter from the city’s Personnel and EEOC Officer, Doug Johnson regarding his request to be appointed to the city’s newly formed Civil Rights Committee. In the letter, Johnson explains his concern about the appointment of Councilwoman Sadrakula as a committee liaison because of her ongoing racist treatment of him.
Johnson states he has been an employee of Clifton for 7 years, and in that time Councilwoman Sadrakula has “attacked me through her editorials to the New Jersey Herald, other outlets, and over her social media pages when all she knew of me was that I was black.”
Johnson also alleges Sadrakula targeted his home while he was the only black resident on the block and reported violations to the City’s Zoning Department that were not true. He requests he be added to the committee as the city’s only non-white department head, and as its Equal Employment Opportunity Officer (EEOC). He also requests the removal of Councilwoman Sadrakula due to her history of racist behavior.
About the Civil Rights Committee and History in Clifton
The Civil Rights Committee was created in Clifton after controversy over a mural with a diversity theme was painted on the Allwood overpass. The mural was designed and painted by local artist May Yuasa and approved by the Clifton City Manager. Residents protested when part of the mural depicting a black fist was painted over by the city. At the time of the controversy, Clifton City Manager called Councilwoman Sadrakula racist for requesting the painted fist be removed; Sadrakula stated she was only passing along complaints from residents. Ray Robertello, a Clifton resident, suggested forming a Civil Rights Committee to prevent the mishandling of these types of issues, similar to towns like Montclair and Rutherford. The committee was officially formed at the August 3rd Council meeting, after the Council committee liaisons Councilwoman Murphy, Pino and Sadrakula met to discuss the committee structure and functions.
This is not the first accusation of harassment or discrimination against Councilwoman Sadrakula. Two prior censures by the full Council earlier in this term resulted from complaints of harassment from other city employees as well as her removal from the Disability Committee at the request of residents for similar behavior.
Sadrakula also has a history of discriminatory behavior towards diverse communities in Clifton dating back 20 years. In the early 2000's she formed an organization “Protect our Neighborhood” to fight the building of a Jewish temple in her neighborhood. Thus began a decade’s long battle in the city over the temple building in years of Planning and Zoning Board meetings and repeated denials of the temple’s plans. These actions were taken despite the well-known 20 year old Federal Law that protects houses of worship from illegal and discriminatory treatment through Zoning laws, as well as the many lawsuits throughout NJ, and the country, that were won by temples, mosques, churches and other religious organizations for similar discrimination. The city’s denial of the temple’s application and Councilwoman Sadrakula’s conflict of interest in the case during her first term on the Council ultimately cost the city $2.5 Million dollars to settle the RLUIPA lawsuit .
To read more about the Federal Religious Land Use Act, click here.
After Doug Johnson’s letter was read, the Council discussed what action to take. Councilman Grabowski made a motion to add Johnson to the committee, after discussion this was amended to add 2 city employees which passed 7-0.
Councilwoman Pino made a motion to remove Councilwoman Sadrakula from the committee, which passed 6-1.
Councilwoman Sadrakula voted against removing herself from the committee, and explained her criticism of Johnson was in regard to the financial matter of the interfund transfer that happened due to his hire from Passaic, resulting in the carryover of sick time which she felt was a bad deal. Sadrakula did not mention the other accusations from Johnson, including targeting his home or refusing to share her financial information with him in the same manner as the city’s other 700 employees do.
The Mayor asked the city attorney Matt Priore to explain the intrafund transfer process between NJ municipalities and if other employees were hired in the same way. Priore confirmed there have been several others, and it is a legal practice that is required by State Law.
The Council agreed to replace Councilwoman Sadrakula on the committee with Councilman Gibson.
The Council also stated that resident volunteers are needed for the new Committee to work. Resident Ray Robertello spoke in the public session and explained the committee will only be effective if a diverse group of residents join and participate.
To read more about how to apply to join the Clifton Civil Rights Committee, click here.
EDITORS NOTE: Much of the history referenced in this article is no longer available to Clifton residents after the local paper was bought by the corporate conglomerate Gannett in 2016 and Gatehouse Media in 2019. The articles linked here, here, here, and here (and many others) can now only be found behind a paywall in the archive, not in a Google search.
The loss of community history and other issues created by news deserts across the US is of ongoing concern in the movement to preserve local news, including the spread of misinformation by politicians on social media when communities have no source of independent news. To read more, click here.