Mayor cleared in sexual harassment, assault trial

Photo by Chris Sykes
Mayor Tony Vauss, center, speaks with some of his supporters and municipal employees who came to the old Essex County Courthouse in downtown Newark to witness the final day of his trial. On Tuesday, Aug. 8, a six-member jury found Vauss not guilty in a civil trial brought by township employee Tamara Smith, who accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Smith had named both the mayor and the township in her lawsuit.

IRVINGTON, NJ — On Tuesday, Aug. 8, a six-member jury found Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss not guilty in a civil trial brought by township employee Tamara Smith, who accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Smith had named both the mayor and the township in her lawsuit.

“Not guilty,” Vauss said Tuesday, Aug. 8. “She is ordered to pay me $7,000 for damages. I want to savor the moment.”

The good news for Vauss came the day after Smith’s attorneys, Paul Castronovo and Thomas McKinney, made their summation, wrapping up a two-week trial before Superior Court Judge Robert Gardner in Newark. The verdict means the township is not liable for Smith’s sexual harassment claims and, more importantly for Vauss, clears him of the sexual harassment and rape claims leveled against him by Smith on July 1, 2014.

Smith originally filed a civil lawsuit alleging Vauss had been sexually harassing her leading up to his mayoral election on May 16, 2014, and that he had raped her inside her Housing Inspection office in the Municipal Building in Civic Square on June 9, 2014. She claimed to be seeking monetary damages for the emotional distress, public humiliation and other physical, medical and psychological effects resulting from the alleged assault. She was also suing to recoup the lawyers fees and expenses incurred in her case.

Vauss, represented by attorney Christopher Kinum, is countersuing Smith for slander and defamation of character, and for filing a false, frivolous lawsuit for a crime that never occurred. He said Smith made up the story about the long-running sexual harassment and assault because she was afraid he would cut or otherwise curtail her ability to earn overtime pay that had already totaled $15,000 at the time of the alleged incident. According to Vauss, Smith wanted a promotion from housing inspector to a code enforcement official with a corresponding increase in pay and benefits.

Attorney Angelo Genova represented the township against Smith’s allegations that former Irvington Business Administrator Wayne Bradley failed to abide by, enforce and implement Irvington’s official sexual harassment policy, saying immediate action on his part was required when she informed him about the alleged assault. Bradley served as the township’s de facto personnel manager at the time. He reportedly wrote a memo about Smith’s allegations.

None of the attorneys involved in the case could be reached for comment by press time this week.

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