Brooklyn Borough Chief Is Deposed in Bias Suit

New York Times reports on the suit filed by former Borough President Communications Director Regina Weiss. By DAVID W. CHEN

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is not the only city official who has been forced recently to answer questions about employment discrimination.

Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, was deposed on Friday at his offices in the most significant moment in a lawsuit filed in 2007 by a top former aide. Mr. Markowitz’s former chief of staff, Gregory D. Atkins, was also deposed in the case. He testified on Tuesday.

The case involves Regina Weiss, who served as Mr. Markowitz’s communications director in 2005 and 2006. Ms. Weiss is alleging that Mr. Atkins — with Mr. Markowitz’s tacit blessing — subjected her to gender and age discrimination. And despite good reviews from Mr. Markowitz, the lawsuit alleges, Ms. Weiss, now 52, was forced to resign in early 2006 because of what she perceived as Mr. Atkins’s persistent denigration of her work and his clear bias toward male employees.

The lawsuit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, also alleges that Mr. Markowitz improperly asked his employees to work on his 2005 re-election campaign and ignored “inappropriate sexual activity” by Mr. Atkins with three other employees.

The accusation of a blurring of the lines between city work and campaign activity is particularly noteworthy for Mr. Markowitz, given that he recently admitted that he used his chief of staff, Carlo A. Scissura, as his private lawyer to purchase a $1.45 million house in Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace neighborhood.

Both Ms. Weiss, who now works as a spokeswoman for a nonprofit education group, and her lawyer, Jack Tuckner, said they believed that the depositions — each of which lasted more than four hours — went well. But they cautioned that it is still early in the process, and they expect the city to try to have the case dismissed.

In a statement, though, a lawyer for the city’s Law Department, which is representing Mr. Markowitz, expressed confidence in the city’s position.

“We are confident that we will prevail in this case,” said Diana Goell Voigt, senior counsel with the labor and employment law division. “The Brooklyn borough president has always, and will continue, to employ a diverse group of talented staff in his office.”

It is not that common, lawyers say, for city officials to be deposed in employment discrimination cases, much less to be named as defendants, as Mr. Markowitz was.

For his part, Mr. Bloomberg testified in August in connection with a federal lawsuit accusing the city of intentionally discriminating against black applicants who took the Fire Department’s exams. A judge ruled against the city in January.