Ex-worker files suit claiming Newark Housing Authority skirted contracts laws

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 15, 2015

NEWARK — A former Newark Housing Authority employee has filed a lawsuit alleging the agency routinely bypassed state law when hiring outside contractors.

In the suit filed in federal court in late March, Cheryl Goins alleges that administrators at the agency, where she served as coordinator of operation contracts from June 2012 until being fired in September 2014, ordered her to process contracts that never been put out to bid, adjust purchase order timelines and complete documents they knew had been prepared improperly.

"Cheryl's bosses were quite unscrupulous and demanded that Cheryl perform illegal activities in connection with her job," the suit reads.

The filing offers no specifics on what contracts she claims the Housing Authority entered into illegally. Neither Goins nor her attorney, Elizabeth Foster, could be reached for comment on the allegations.

The suit also makes a wide range of other allegations, including that Goins suffered various forms of retaliation for resisting her superiors' demands to skirt the law, and because of her gender and race, a mix of black and Native American.

Among her claims is that white and male employees were promoted over her and avoided discipline, that she was not paid for overtime she had worked, forced to work in a building that aggravated her asthma, coerced into overseeing office birthday parties, and made to attend a 3-hour meeting without having eaten lunch.

Goins charges that the adverse treatment led her to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She missed work due to the symptoms, she claims, but was denied workers compensation and disability benefits.

Housing Authority Executive Director Keith Kinard declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

In January 2014, Goins filed a similar lawsuit against Essex County, where she worked as a senior purchasing assistant until being suspended and leaving the post in June 2012.

That suit, filed in New Jersey federal court in January 2014, also accuses the county of illegally extending contracts and accepting high-priced bids, as well as discriminating against her due to her race. The case was dismissed in September, according to judicial records.

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