Racist texts and lawsuit cost high-profile animal control chief his job
Victor "Buddy" Amato, one of New Jersey's most visible animal control officers, has resigned following a lawsuit alleging he sent racist texts within his agency.
Amato, who headed the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for 12 years, told the Asbury Park Press the texts were "a bunch of jokes" between "a bunch of guys" that reached a person who wasn't supposed to get them. According to the suit, some of the texts compared blacks to primates and also included degrading comments about Jews and homosexuals.
BuzzFeed reported the suit was filed in Monmouth County Superior Court by Suzzane DesMaris of Jackson, a volunteer investigator who was hired last August and worked under Amato's supervision.
The suit, which names the agency, Amato and board members Daren Haber and Arlene Opatut, charges that DesMaris was forced out of her job when she reported the texts to the MCSPCA board.
MCSPCA CEO Jerry Rosenthal in an email said that DesMaris "was never asked to leave the organization and is still a volunteer."
The suit also charges that Amato:
- Sent offensive text messages to his staff, including a picture comparing first lady Michelle Obama and a character from the movie "Planet of the Apes," and racist comments about Al Sharpton, Ferguson, Kwanza and Bill Cosby.
- Hired agents without a proper background check and instructed another agent to forge his name on summons and warrants.
- Ordered the installation of flashing blue lights on his and other agents' private vehicles and failed to offer proper training in the use of job-related equipment.
- Used his karate expertise to intimidate employees who threatened to report his inappropriate behavior.
After details of the suit were posted, Amato, 60, announced his resignation via a statement to News 12 New Jersey, saying: "I decided to retire. I was going to retire in six months but as a result of this, I thought it would probably be better timing to do so now. So, I sent in my retirement resignation letter."
Rosenthal issued a statement saying: "The Monmouth County SPCA has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination and harassment. These allegations have been taken very seriously and have been under a thorough investigation."
Rosenthal said the agency will seek support for animal cruelty enforcement efforts from the state SPCA until a new chief can be named. The job is classified as a law enforcement position in New Jersey.
Amato has been at the center of many animal abuse cases in recent years, including the case of Sammy the cocker spaniel and that ofvolunteer Gretchen Rel who was found with hundreds of dead birds and other animals in her Howell home
Associated Press also contributed to this story.
- Top New Jersey Animal Cop Sent Racist, Homophobic Text Messages, Lawsuit Alleges / BuzzFeed
- Monmouth SPCA chief steps down following lawsuit / News 12 New Jersey