Jersey Shore City Hires Lawyer to Investigate Allegations of Beach Patrol Sexual Abuse
Ocean City officials said on Friday they hired a labor attorney to investigate allegations of sexual abuse within the Ocean City Beach Patrol that were posted anonymously on social media.
In a statement, a city spokesperson said Vanessa E. James of the Barker, Gelfand, James and Sarvas law firm, “would conduct a confidential internal investigation into the allegations against Ocean City Beach Patrol employees.” .
The allegations – which were shared earlier this month on an ocbp_predators Instagram account, – include allegations of widespread sexual abuse often committed by older members against younger members of the OCBP. The messages include stories of sexual assault against underage girls as well as excessive drug and alcohol use.
For the city’s internal investigation, James would interview members of the beach patrol and “people who posted anonymously on an Instagram page alleging various sexual harassment offenses,” according to city spokesperson Doug. Bergen. The Cape May County Attorney’s Office, which handles criminal cases, was also investigating, officials said.
“James will work in consultation with the Cape May County Attorney’s Office to identify those who wish to share information,” the spokesperson said in an email. “She will also review the policies, procedures and training of the OCBP and the city and make recommendations for changes, if necessary.”
The lawyer is trained as an external workplace investigator and is a member of the Association of Workplace Investigators, Bergen said.
“His areas of practice include workplace investigations, labor law, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful dismissal, civil rights, police misconduct and professional liability. It is recommended by the Joint Insurance Fund in which Ocean City participates, ”said the city spokesperson.
The creator of the Instagram account previously told NJ Advance Media that she has received more than 500 personal messages since the first post went live on April 14, although not all of the posts are shared publicly. The account manager, who did not want to be identified, said she checked messages and removed credentials.
“Thank you for all the support and the people who bravely stepped forward and brought their stories to the [prosecutor’s office]”Said a post this week on the Instagram account.
Authorities have released some details of the investigation. The prosecution did not immediately return a message on Friday evening. James, the labor lawyer, could not be reached. OCBP officials did not return any messages.
“Ocean City remains committed to providing all resources necessary to complete a full investigation and ensure a safe workplace for all employees,” Mayor Jay A. Gillian said in a statement.
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Noah cohen can be reached at [email protected].