Celeste Sitarski, a DPW employee is collecting a $70,000 salary while on paid leave, and using the time to campaign for her nephew’s re-election to the borough council, while her second lawsuit makes its way through the courts.
Sitarski won $200,000 from a previous legal case against taxpayers, in which she amplified sexual and racial stereotypes about the Black men with whom she works.
In a suit filed in 2016, Sitarski claimed her male co-workers casually bragged of their sexual exploits, made graphic sexual advances and uttered derogatory comments about women.
Sitarski, 58, claims Black male Roselle employees made sexually abusive and racially insensitive comments and engaged in other harassing behaviors during the 13 years she has worked as a laborer for the DPW.
Her claims lacked any independent proof, but officials acted to settle the matter without going to court.
A month after Brandon Bernier was elected to the Roselle council, the borough settled Sitarski’s first lawsuit for $200,000, according to court records. Sitarski is Bernier’s aunt, the sister of his mother.
Sitarski is now accused of cashing in as a ‘DPW Karen’ who makes unfounded allegations against Black men as she seeks to recreate the lawsuit that made her one of the richest people in the community.
She went from being an unemployed temporary worker to a $70,000 a year sanitation job and then to one or more six figure lawsuits after destroying Black men based on racial stereotypes with the aid of her nephew, who is situated as the borough council’s finance chairman.
While drawing that $70,000 salary on paid leave, Sitarski is eagerly campaigning for her nephew, Bernier, and another councilman, John Fortuna, leading one observer to speculate, “She’s got 200,000 reasons to help them get re-elected.”
A glaring conflict of interest could hang over Bernier, who could be in a position to decide how much money taxpayers will shovel over to his aunt, Sitarski, if he is re-elected and the borough settles her second lawsuit.
A similar concern circulates in discussions about Fortuna, who is essentially her boss as chair of the borough council’s DPW committee.
“It’s amazing that she is campaigning for the two principle elected officials who are managing the agencies that are the defendants in her lawsuit,” said resident Michael Davis. “If the DPW is engaging in such illegal behavior and creating a hostile workplace, then why don’t Bernier and Fortuna hold their subordinates accountable?”