RAHWAY, NJ — A lawsuit filed by a female city employee alleges former Mayor Samson Steinman resigned in December from his post the same day her accusations of sexual harassment reached the city council’s president at that time, Raymond Giacobbe Jr.
Denise Rolong, managing director of the city’s Gallery Space, filed a civil complaint in state Superior Court on May 1, outlining what she described as years of sexual harassment by Steinman. She accused Steinman of forcibly kissing her, telling her about his alleged sexual exploits and becoming “furious” when she encouraged him to date other people.
“For instance, over the course of Ms. Rolong’s employment with the city, Steinman made comments to her that she should dress in sexy costumes for Halloween events, a sexy elf during ‘winter wonderland’ on two occasions and that he liked the way her body looked in certain dresses she had worn, which he suggested she wear again,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit names Steinman, city business Administrator Cherron Rountree, the city of Rahway, and several unidentified individuals and corporations as defendants.
Samson abruptly resigned on Christmas Eve last year, after twice crashing his city-issued car and taking a seven-week medical leave. He later told NJ Advance Media that he is bipolar. Giacobbe was appointed as mayor by the city council in January.
The lawsuit was first reported by NJ Advance Media.
An attorney for Steinman has not been made public yet and the former mayor could not be reached for comment. Giacobbe did not respond to a request for comment.
The city’s law director, Louis Rainone, said in a May 4 phone interview that the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit and he does not generally comment on pending litigation. Rainone added that the city has an insurance carrier.
Rolong alleges she was at Cubanu, a restaurant in Rahway, in about May 2014, and met a man. According to her lawsuit, Steinman began to frantically text message Rolong, asking her to go to his office in City Hall. Once there, Steinman, who was “distressed,” told Rolong that he loved her and begged her not to date anyone living in the city because he knew everyone there, the lawsuit said.
After Rolong began to date someone later that same year, Steinman began to constantly contact Rolong asking where she was, the lawsuit alleges. Rolong also alleges that Steinman called her to complain that she was dating someone and displaying her relationship in front of the former mayor in order to “hurt him.”
When Rolong attended a League of Municipalities Conference in November 2015, Steinman became “visibly angry” when a man would speak with her, the lawsuit states.
Steinman allegedly became intoxicated at the conference and when Rolong helped him up to his hotel room, he pushed her up against a wall in the room and kissed her, she alleges in her suit. A knock on the door caused Steinman to loosen his grasp, allowing Rolong to leave the room, the suit claims.
In 2016, Rolong moved from her job at the city’s Recreation Center to the Clerk’s Office, and Steinman would allegedly ask Rolong to report to his office or stop by her office, look her up and down and make comments about her appearance. The suit also accuses Steinman of recounting to Rolong stories of his own sex life.
Rolong drove Steinman home one night in February 2017, when he allegedly became too intoxicated to drive his city-issued vehicle home, the suit states. She walked home after dropping him off, but alleges that Steinman got into his personal car and told her to get in. When Rolong threatened to call police, Steinman drove away, the suit says. According to the suit, Rolong called Rountree to discuss the incident and asked if she would speak to Steinman.
Rountree referred questions from LocalSource to the city’s law director.
The suit additionally alleges that around March 18, 2017, Steinman sent Rolong a “barrage of text messages and calls” asking her to go to Cubanu, which Rolong declined. She said she heard a loud noise outside her house later that night and texted Steinman to ask if he had been in an accident on her street. He allegedly responded that he had slid on ice or hit a pothole, but Rolong said she did not see any issues on the road. According to Rolong, Steinman was slurring his words when she spoke with him later that night.
The suit claims Rolong spoke with former city Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier in December last year about her charges against Steinman, and that the councilwoman met with the Rountree and Giacobbe to discuss Rolong’s accusations Dec. 24.
Steinman resigned from his post the same day in an email sent to Rountree.
Wenson-Maier declined to comment on the case when reached by LocalSource.