NJ School District Settles Sex Harassment Case

The Long Branch school district will pay $600,000 to settle a former secretary's claims of sexual misconduct against a former district superintendent.

The Asbury Park Press reports the district's board of education approved the settlement during a special meeting Friday night. Nearly all of the money will be paid by the district's insurer, with the district responsible for $5,000.

The agreement comes just months after an arbitrator recommended that Adele Russo, who worked for Joseph Ferraina as his secretary, receive $4.5 million. The arbitrator said the school board and Ferraina should split the cost.

Russo claimed in her 2011 lawsuit that Ferraina had forced her into a sexual relationship. Ferraina has maintained his innocence, and noted the settlement stipulates that he doesn't have to pay any money to Russo.

A Monmouth County grand jury heard criminal sexual assault claims in the case but declined to issue an indictment last summer.

School officials and the former superintendent both said the insurance company pushed for the settlement to bring the case to a close.

"The overall and overwhelming feeling was that it was time to put this behind us so we could focus on our priorities," which is the education of local schoolchildren, current district Superintendent Michael Salvatore told the newspaper. "Most of us saw this as a real distraction from what we should be primarily focused on."

The newspaper says Russo and her attorney signed off on the settlement last week. They could not be reached for comment.

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