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Chaplain Claims Sexual Harassment; Files Suit Against St. Mary's Hospital

Oct 20, 2004 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel A chaplain at St. Mary's Medical Center filed suit against the hospital on Tuesday, saying her former supervisor sexually harassed her and that the hospital administration did nothing to stop him despite repeated complaints.

The Rev. Sonia Carmona seeks compensation for medical expenses and damages she says are a result of harassment by Vincent Maroun, a Maronite Catholic priest who previously served as the director of St. Mary's pastoral care department. Both Carmona and Maroun are married to other people, according to the lawsuit. Maronite priests are permitted to marry.

Carmona's lawsuit alleges that between October 2002 and October 2003, Maroun acted inappropriately by constantly asking for hugs and kisses, telling Carmona that God would forgive them for being "intimate friends," and that he once touching her buttocks. Carmona says she complained to the hospital's human resources officials as well as St. Mary's President Peter Marmerstein, but no action was taken against Maroun.

On Tuesday, Maroun, who left the West Palm Beach hospital in October 2003, denied the allegations, as did St. Mary's.

"I don't work there any more, but the lady is a con artist," Maroun said. Maroun said he wanted to speak to the hospital before commenting further.

Don Chester, associate administrator at St. Mary's, said Carmona's allegations had been determined to be unfounded.

"We have not seen the lawsuit that has been filed, however we have investigated the allegations made by Ms. Carmona and found them to be without merit," Chester said. "This matter has also been reviewed by the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and Ms. Carmona is a party to an arbitration agreement and arbitration is the proper forum for this matter. The hospital intends to vigorously defend itself against this action."

Carmona's suit states that, out of desperation, she wrote a letter to the Diocese of Palm Beach and that she met with Vicar General Rev. Charles Notabartolo. In October 2003, according to the lawsuit, Notabartolo wrote a letter to Maroun stating that his "faculties to exercise Catholic Priestly Ministry in the Diocese of Palm Beach are withdrawn, effective immediately."

Maroun said Tuesday that as a Maronite priest, he reports to a bishop in New York, not the Diocese of Palm Beach. Neither Chester nor Maroun would comment on why Maroun left his employment at St. Mary's.

"It's between Father Vincent and the Diocese of Palm Beach," Chester said.

Notabartolo could not be reached for comment.

Carmona still is employed at the hospital, though her lawsuit alleges that she has been the victim of retaliation and passed up for promotions because of her complaints about Maroun.

As a result of the alleged harassment, according to the lawsuit, Carmona has suffered embarrassment, anxiety, depression, shingles and post-traumatic stress disorder for which she seeks to be compensated.

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