The New Jersey Police Chief Magazine | May 2012
Continued from previous page This language was subsequently removed from the act yet the act was re-dubbed the “Police Chief’s Rights Act”.
In 1981, Byram Township experienced nine fatal accidents killing ten drivers including a Sunday mid-morning accident that killed both drivers who were each legally drunk. In 1982 and 1983, the Byram Township PD earned recognition from the New Jersey Safety Council for having an effective DWI enforcement program that all but eliminated fatal DWI accidents. Each offi- cer had written an average of twenty DWI summonses each year. One would think that the recognition would continue the department in a favorable light. Several people ran for township committee in 1983 including a tavern owner, a bartender and a frequent flier at the local watering holes. As later testified to under oath, the tavern owner told a senior member of the township committee that he was looking to reduce the police department from 12 to 8 sworn personnel “because they are hurting my business”.
In January 1984, the township administrator was asked by the township committee to obtain from me the savings that could be realized by one, two, three and four layoffs of police officers. My research indicated that with each layoff, it would cost the township money, especially in increased overtime and lost court revenues.
Despite solid budgetary facts, the township committee stated they were going to layoff three police officers to save $25,000 and stay under the CAP. The residents demanded a referendum to provide the funds. The TC put an additional $200,000 for office equipment in the referendum and the referendum failed. I was suspended for several days and three officers were laid off going to Mendham and Denville Townships.
Governor Tom Kean was conducting a town hall meeting in Newton and I attended in order to tell him how the CAP law was being abused to diminish our police department. He suggested that I testify before the CAP Commission and I immediately made time to do so. In testifying, I was very careful to use only public information in a written script. The Commission did not like what they heard but had no authority to change what had happened.
A group of civic minded citizens organized a recall committee only to find that the township committee charter we had did not permit recall. Change of government under the Faulkner Act was the only answer.
A referendum to change the form of government to council-manager was held in February 1985. By 2 to 1, the voters ap- proved the change effective July 1, 1985.
While we were celebrating that victory and the superior court’s reversal of my 1984 suspension the same day, the now-lame duck township committee ordered me suspended with pay immediately pending dismissal. My charges essentially were that I “defamed the township committee” before the CAP Commission. Am I glad I had followed my written document to the letter.
My then and now personal attorney, former prosecutor George T. Daggett, insisted that we have public hearings which were held in March and April before an arbitrator who was given full authority to make a decision in the case. The public hearings were standing room only.
On June 4, 1985, the hearing examiner’s report was received and it exonerated me. One committee person said that she had not read the report but disagreed with it and motioned to fire me. One committee person immediately walked out and the vote was 4 to 0 to fire me.
George Daggett immediately filed a motion in Superior Court and on June 15th I was reinstated. On June 18th I was fired again. On the 20th I was restored by the court. On June 22nd, I was fired for the third time. June 24th, restored. June 26th fired. June 27th restored, June 30th fired as the last act of the township committee.
On July 1st, 1985, I was restored as chief of police by the new mayor and township council and went on to serve as acting and interim township manager concurrent with chief of police. I retired as chief in November 1993. I also served as mayor from 2002 to 2009.
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