Southampton Village’s mayor allegedly turned the village administrator’s life into “a living hell” through demeaning and harassing emails and by freezing her out of certain job duties, according to a new lawsuit.
Charlene Kagel-Betts, 62, has alleged that Mayor Jesse Warren discriminated against her because of her age and gender, created a hostile work environment and sought to tarnish her reputation.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County against Warren and the Village of Southampton, says Kagel-Betts is seeking financial damages in an amount a jury should determine.
She claims in the lawsuit she has suffered "physiological and emotional damages" as the result of "abusive conduct" by the mayor.
But Warren told Newsday in an interview that the village conducted a "very extensive investigation" into allegations by Kagel-Betts and found they weren't true.
That included the village hiring Elena Cacavas, who was an administrative law judge, to do an investigation. The probe concluded "no such discrimination took place," according to the mayor.
Among specific allegations, Kagel-Betts' lawsuit says Warren hired Patrick Derenze, 27, to a position titled "assistant to the mayor" and assigned Kagel-Betts' chief of staff duties to him while excluding her from meetings she was required to attend.
The mayor said Tuesday that Kagel-Betts' job does not include chief of staff duties.
Kagel-Betts works as the village's chief financial officer in her role as village administrator and is responsible for implementing and managing an annual budget of more than $33 million. She started her job in October 2020 and has 28 years experience in municipal finance.
Warren, who is serving his second term and plans to run for reelection this year, also called the lawsuit "politically motivated" Tuesday.
But plaintiff's attorney Regina Calcaterra said Kagel-Betts filed the lawsuit to make residents aware of the mayor's "illegal and unethical behaviors and to show that one of his principal focuses is to carry out vendettas instead of carrying out his job."
Southampton Village Attorney Andrew Preston said the village doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit also alleges the mayor said he needed a male assistant instead of a female to avoid problems he had with a former aide, identified only as "Jane Doe."
In February 2022, Kagel-Betts received a copy of an internal complaint from the female aide, claiming the mayor had promised her a promotion to mayoral assistant from secretary but then didn't elevate her to the position, the lawsuit says.
Warren “berated and belittled” the female aide and Kagel-Betts found her in tears several times, the village administrator's lawsuit says.
Warren also behaved abusively to two female village trustees when they didn't vote in line with him, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit also claims Warren violated the village's code of ethics and the law while trying to induce a vendor to violate the village's procurement policy. That vendor couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday evening. Warren denied wrongdoing in that matter as well.