Court upholds $75,000 harassment settlement against Camden business owner

Posted: January 18, 2013

A Camden businessman will be held to the terms of a $75,000 sexual harassment settlement he claims he never agreed to, after a state appellate panel upheld its validity.

Ronald Ford Jr., who owned City Coffee on Market Street across from Camden City Hall, refused to sign the settlement, saying he never agreed to it.

But his lawyer had sent a letter to the court announcing his agreement, and a judge declared the settlement valid.

State Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced Wednesday that an appellate court upheld that decision this month.

The Division on Civil Rights sued Ford in 2007 for alleged sexual harassment over the years of six female employees at the shop, which he said he sold in 2008 and to which he now leases space.

A jury in 2010 found Ford guilty of harassing one of the women, but a retrial was ordered after prosecutors said he might have paid certain witnesses to testify on his behalf.

Before that trial could begin in July 2011, Ford met with prosecutors to negotiate a deal. He did not admit to any wrongdoing under the agreement, Chiesa said in a statement.

Ford said Wednesday that he wanted a retrial and the judge forced him to negotiate, and that he never agreed to a settlement.

Ford provided the name and phone number of his lawyer at the time, Mark W. Ford (no relation), who said his former client agreed to a settlement but backed out.

"Ron told me he never intended to go through with the settlement," Mark Ford said Wednesday. "He did not intend in good faith to go through with the settlement."


Contact Jonathan Lai at 856-779-3220, jlai@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.

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