LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Lawsuit against Atlantic County prosecutor alleges gender bias, retaliation

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

After nearly 20 years working at the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in high ranking positions from acting prosecutor to first assistant prosecutor, Diane Ruberton says guards stood by her as she packed her things and was escorted to the door. The only thing she was told was that her services were no longer needed.

“Because I spoke up, because I dared question Mr. Tyner, because I blew the whistle, I was fired,” Ruberton said.

Ruberton, Heather McManus and Donna Fetzer are suing Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner, two of his lieutenants, Atlantic County, and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for gender discrimination and retaliation

McManus said she was forced to retire. Fetzer is still working at the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. Their 100-page civil complaint was filed Thursday.

“He excluded the women who had skills and expertise in a particular area in favor of less senior males who had lacked those skills and experience. He did reduce the pay of myself and other females in the office,” said Ruberton.

Tyner was appointed to his position by Gov. Chris Christie in March 2017. Ruberton said at the news conference that within the first 6 months she began to notice patterns of him treating her and other females differently.

“I was a police officer for over 25 years and have served the public since my early 20s. I worked in three different prosecutors offices and for 10 different prosecutors,” said McManus. “We are here today because we would not be silent to what we saw and experienced.”

The lawsuit claims Tyner began retaliating against the plaintiffs when he became aware they reported he was allegedly involved in mortgage fraud to the FBI.

On Thursday, Tyner posted a statement on the office’s website that reads in part, “It is apparent that the plaintiffs are living in an alternative universe. The very same conduct they accuse me and the members of my administration of committing was actually carried out by them and others during their brief, ineffective period of leadership of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.”

The Atlantic County executive says that while the allegations against Tyner should be properly investigated, Atlantic County has no control over the hiring and firing of the prosecutor. A lawyer representing the plaintiffs says in October they wrote a letter asking the state attorney general to conduct an internal affairs investigation.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office had no comment at this time.