Storm clouds of controversy over a sexual harassment lawsuit and the contracts awarded

Carl Block
Carl Block (Ocean County)

to an engineer continues to hover over the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Weeks ago, Freeholder Director Joe Vicari, refuted contentions that he allowed the harassment by Engineer Joseph Veni to continue by pressuring Veni's Supervisor William Santos to continue to renew his contract.

"People get charged and I get charged all the time with a civil suit," said Vicari. "It's frivolous, I'll make it very clear."

County Administrator Carl Block said accusations by Santos, that nothing was done when complaints surfaced about Veni's behavior are untrue. Block said when Santos was allowed to access Veni's county emails ...

"He (Santos) came back with some emails that were inappropriate. I immediately made some changes in the department pertaining to Joe Veni and that is what happened two years ago," said Block.

However, the issues resurfaced, according to Block and he said he brought the matter to the freeholders.

"I went to the freeholders and gave them each a report saying this has come to light. You should know about it. It's a lot worst than what we knew back then and they did take immediate action," according to Block.

However, there are questions about to why Veni's contract was renewed with lucrative salary increases year after year when there were concerns about him. Block said all contracts go through a fair competitive bidding process with checks and balances in place.

"The department itself writes up the specs, or the services, or the commodity they're looking for. There is a consultant review committee that is reviewing this to make sure they do not in any way violate any procurement law," explained Block.

The sexual harassment civil suit brought against several county officials concerning Veni has become a hot button political issue with Vicari's Democratic challenger Timothy Ryan.

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