Lawsuit against Mayor Adams’ top aide portrays culture of sexual harassment inside NYPD

A new sexual harassment lawsuit against one of Mayor Eric Adams’ closest advisers is alleging a culture of misogyny and sexual harassment within the NYPD — a department that has faced numerous reports of sexism and gender discrimination against women.

Roxanne Ludemann, a now retired sergeant who worked in a special mayoral unit monitoring city agencies, has accused Timothy Pearson of making repeated sexual advances and blocking her promotion after she rebuffed him. The civil lawsuit was first reported on Thursday by the Daily News and goes into great detail, not only around Ludemann’s experiences, but potentially corroborating experiences of other women in the department.

The 55-page complaint paints Pearson as a known sexual harasser, regularly rubbing the shoulders and arms of women in a special NYPD unit and making lewd gestures that included licking his lips and opening his legs “in an overtly sexual way.”

The suit names two other women who Pearson also allegedly sexually harassed.

Pearson’s behavior — which included an offer to help Ludemann advance her career in return for a sexual relationship — were “commonplace” tactics used to harass women within the NYPD, where fighting the abuse was futile, according to the suit.

Pearson did not respond to a request for comment. Both the NYPD and mayor’s office declined to comment on the specific allegations as well as the department’s culture.

“We will review the lawsuit and respond in court,” said Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for Adams.

The lawsuit echoes stories of other women in male-dominated industries, including tech and Wall Street. It sheds light on an often opaque department that has been hit with numerous sexual misconduct complaints and where female police account for only about 20% of the 34,000-member force.

The accusations comes less than a year after Keechant Sewell, the city’s first woman police commissioner, abruptly resigned amid reports that she was being undermined by the mayor and members of his inner circle.

The complaint portrays a workplace fraught with landmines for women.

Ludemann at one point insisted a supervisor not file a complaint on her behalf, telling him it was “career suicide,” according to the court papers.

The lawsuit also states that Pearson wanted Ludemann to be his personal driver, allegedly another widely used harassment tactic.

“Making a woman officer a driver for a supervisor is a common way women are sexually harassed in the NYPD,” the complaint reads. “Specifically, male supervisors often chose women to drive them as it provides them with one on one access to the female officer. The woman officers are then held captive as they are forced to drive their male supervisor and are unable to get away from the assignment if the supervisor has nefarious intentions.”

In addition to Pearson, Ludemann is also suing the city, the NYPD’s Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and Internal Affairs Inspector Joseph Profeta.

In 2016, Maddrey was sued by a former subordinate who accused him of repeated unwanted sexual advances as well as physical assault.

Maddrey did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit comes at a vulnerable moment for Adams, who is himself facing a sexual assault lawsuit over an incident that allegedly occurred in 1993 when he was a transit police officer. The complaint states that Adams promised to help the accuser with her career in return for oral sex.

Pearson, a retired NYPD inspector, is a longtime friend of the mayor and part of his inner circle. He is paid $245,000 a year as an employee at the city’s Economic Development Corporation. But his portfolio has been far-ranging, and includes overseeing security at migrant shelters and city contracts related to the crisis.

This is not the first time Pearson has been accused of inappropriate behavior. He is currently under a city investigation for an altercation with security guards at a migrant shelter that involved pushing and threatening a female security guard.

In earlier comments to other news outlets on Thursday, the mayor’s office defended Pearson and disclosed that Ludemann refused to cooperate with an investigation by the City Hall’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. But the lawsuit claims Ludemann had several conversations with an investigator about Pearson and no action was taken.

According to Ludemann’s lawsuit, the head of her unit, NYPD Chief Miltiadis Marmara, urged Ludemann to report Pearson’s conduct. When she declined out of fear of retaliation, Marmara then instructed two male officers to make sure one of them followed Pearson at all times to make sure he is never alone with female officers in the unit, the suit states.

In May 2023, Politico reported that Marmara left the unit, only three months after he was assigned to lead it.

Jill Snider, a lecturer at John Jay College who retired from the NYPD in 2020, said she saw the department make significant strides in gender equality and improving its work culture for women. She said she herself worked as a driver for a male supervisor for many years and never experienced sexual harassment.

But she acknowledged that the NYPD remains a male-dominated environment.

“Do I think we are breaking barriers? Yes. Do I think we are still viewed as subservient? Sometimes,” she said.

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