By LIZ BUTTON
While independent mayoral candidate and Archie Comics co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit wages her campaign for Rye City’s top office, six Archie employees have launched a legal battle against her.
Six Archie Comics employees, including company president Mike Pellerito and Editor-in-Chief
Victor Gorelick, filed a Sept. 30 lawsuit in state Supreme Court, alleging that any continued association by Silberkleit with Archie Comics would result in the Mamaroneck-based company’s “complete collapse.” In the suit, the plaintiffs characterized Silberkleit as a “dangerous, deceitful, deceptive and discriminatory individual.”
The suit alleges the mayoral candidate’s aggressive and disruptive behavior has created a demoralizing work environment, but Silberkleit told The Mamaroneck Review, “there is absolutely no thread of that attached to me. That is not me.”
Silberkleit, who announced her candidacy in August, said the employees who have leveled the charges are conducting a campaign of ill will, but she is attempting to take the high road.
“It’s damaging, mean, and cruel. And it is wrong, it is plain wrong. So ,when you are faced with something like that, how does one react? Do you get into their box and behave the same way?” Silberkleit said.
The six plaintiffs seek $25 million in damages as well as an award of $7.5 million in punitive damages to put into a fund for an anti-bullying campaign.The lawsuit alleges an employee was offered money to “spy” and find “dirt” on certain employees at Archie and was told to lie about the actions of other employees.
Silberkleit allegedly directed her assistants on multiple occasions not to work on Archie Comics business, but to work instead on other matters that would be to her personal and financial benefit.
The lawsuit also accuses Silberkleit of stalking, and threatening to stalk, plaintiff employees and claims that she seeks “her self-promotion as the effective ‘dictator’ over Archie Comics or, in default of that, the demise of this iconic publication in American culture.”
While the employees say Silberkleit has tried to make herself the dictator of the company, Silberkleit said she did not think for a moment that the story would not surface and her legal ordeal has only strengthened her belief that she could handle the job of mayor with aplomb.
“It takes patience and a lot of tolerance,” she said. “I think I have shown this. It has been going on for an awfully long time, but being in a position such as mayor, you have 15,720 plus people to deal with, so that is a big challenge.”
As mayor, Silberkleit said, “you have to be able to perform and articulate and handle things that come into City Hall immediately, like with Hurricane Sandy. [You have] to respond to the most unusual things, and this [lawsuit] is definitely off-the-charts unusual.”
This is not the first time that Silberkleit has had to deal with lawsuits filed against her by members of her own company. And earlier this year, she also filed a lawsuit of her own against another colleague.
The current suit comes on the heels of a well-publicized 2011 conflict in which the company’s other co-CEO, Jon Goldwater, accused Silberkleit of harassing employees and legally barred her from entering the company’s headquarters. The suit alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, some of the same charges levied in the current suit.
Although Silberkleit and Goldwater obstensibly settled their differences in 2012 and vowed to begin their working relationship anew, the circumstances of the 2011 conflict have returned to the fore in the lawsuit filed Sept. 30.
According to the new suit, Silberkleit’s behavior was described in a 2011 report by a human resource firm Achie retained in 2010. The firm responded to complaints from Silberkleit and Goldwater and interviewed Archie employees about the co-CEOs’ respective allegations.
The 2011 report concluded Silberkleit’s harrassment claims were unsubstantiated and, based on her behavoir in the workplace, recommended she have no further dealings with Archie Comics.
Silberkleit inherited half the company in 2008 when her husband Michael Silberkleit died suddenly.
This April, Silberkleit sued Sam-uel Levitin, a friend of 40 ye-ars and liason between Silberkleit and the rest of Archie after the 2011 suit, for sexual harassment toward her after their working relationship allegedly soured.
Silberkleit connects her current struggles at Archie with what she says is a lack of civility at Rye City Council meetings that many in town have noted and rallied against. All this may be helpful practice when it comes to dealing with disagreements and incivility that have the potential to distract from conducting the business of the city, she said.
“It is a real distraction.” she said. “I thought I’d be perfect for the [job as mayor] because [I have] experienced so much mean behavior.”
Silberkleit’s opponents in the race for Rye mayor, Republican Joe Sack and independent Peter Jovanovich, said they have both heard about her latest lawsuit.
“Without commenting specifically on her legal issues, I would just say that I’ve been saying anyway that what we need on the City Council is more collaboration and cooperation,” Sack said. “I’m guess I’m going to focus on what I’m trying to do and I’m not going to really comment on what issues she is having with these employees.”
Jovanovich declined to comment further on the issue.