By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Aronofsky said in legal papers that she repeatedly protested Zakheim's behavior, telling him it was "inappropriate and unprofessional." She said Zakheim insisted he would act how he pleased. "I can, and I will," she quoted him as saying. Another supervisor brushed her complaints aside, saying it was just "Steve being Steve."
Tara Bongiardina, 25, described in the complaint how she too received the full Zakheim after being hired in 1999. On her first day of work, she said, Zakheim asked her about herself, while standing embarrassingly close and leering at her body. A few weeks later, Zakheim allegedly called her into his office and offered her tickets to a Yankees game. "What am I going to get in return?" the boss allegedly asked, adding that he had "dreamed about" her the night before.
Aronofsky and another of the plaintiffs, Adrinne Forrest, said in the lawsuit that they were fired following a 2002 incident in which they complained to the company's human resources department. They said Zakheim had berated workers in the ambulance firm's call-receiving office when he couldn't get through to them. Zakheim had allegedly asked Joann Febre, another plaintiff in the lawsuit who was a dispatcher in the office, whether his workers were "reading comic books, playing with themselves, or masturbating."
Several workers later wrote a letter of protest to company personnel officials about the incident. "It's my fucking company," Zakheim allegedly later yelled at Aronofsky and others, adding, "You can stop going to Human Resources [or] get the fuck out."
A letter was later issued by company CEO Matthew Harrison, saying that Zakheim's comments were inappropriate. Zakheim's alleged response was to tell Aronofsky, who had worked at the firm for more than a decade, that he "didn't trust her anymore." A few weeks later, he terminated her employment.
The harassment suit was settled before it even made it to the discovery stage, during which Zakheim and his lawyers would have been free to test the women's stories in sworn depositions. Unmentioned in the legal papers, however, is that this isn't the first time Zakheim has been accused of sexual transgressions. In 1983, he was found guilty of misdemeanor sex abuse, a conviction he failed to report on his state license applications. The city's EMS unions, furious after Giuliani gave MetroCare the 911 contracts, unearthed the conviction and reported it in 2000. Zakheim later paid a $6,000 fine.