August 21, 2013 at 6:55 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ – Police Benevolent Association members recently have questioned Township Manager Michele Meade about the location of a $10,000 donation that was slated for the benefit of the Livingston Police Department more than one year ago.
The donation check was originally issued in June 2012 by two Livingston residents to thank the police department for a particular service, and made out to the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (PBA), but later voided and re-issued to the Township of Livingston. Now, more than a year later, the money has not yet been spent for the donor’s intended purpose.
PBA Vice-President Dave Kimack and Former Auxiliary Police Officer Larry Greenberg confronted Meade at a town council meeting on July 29 asking why the check was re-issued to the town instead of being sent to the PBA (as it was already written out to the PBA and the donors expressed intention for the check to go to the PBA in a letter) and why it hadn’t been used to purchase a plate reader as the donor requested.
Upon approaching Meade, Greenberg referred to a copy of a letter addressed to Meade and Livingston Police Chief Craig Handschuch from the donors thanking them for the efforts of the police department.
“We are very grateful and have enclosed a contribution to the Livingston PBA,” the letter read. “Please put it to good use. We are told that ‘plate trackers’ might be an important choice.”
In response to this, Greenberg said, “The check was made out to the PBA. The donation was earmarked for plate readers. It’s been over a year. Why haven’t plate readers been purchased?”
Meade said the money was transferred to a police donation account (which was also referred to as a general trust account) and has been sitting there ever since.
Mayor Rudy Fernandez called Handschuch to approach the council and asked him to explain what happens once money is transferred into the police donation account. “Once money is in the donation account, who then follows up and uses it for whatever purposes you need? Who ends up making that decision?," the mayor asked.
Handschuch said, “I’m not 100 percent (sure) what happened with this. If we know the donation is there and it’s earmarked for a specific item, it’s our responsibility.” Handschuch also said that he never received the initial letter addressed to him from the donor nor was he notified by Meade once the money was deposited.
At the July 29 council meeting, Meade said that she assumed Handschuch received his own copy of the letter, as it was addressed to him as well. At the Aug. 19 meeting, however, when Greenberg confronted her again, she stated that she verbally communicated with Handschuch on two occasions--once in the summer of 2012 to let him know that the check was going to be re-issued, and then a second time on Sept. 25 to notify him that the check had been re-issued.
Greenberg pointed out that when he was present at the last meeting, Handschuch told the council that that was the first time he was hearing about the donation. Meade replied by saying, “I disagree with that.”
Both Greenberg and Kimack expressed their disapproval of the lack of communication by the township manager to the chief of police. But for Kimack, the bigger issue was that the PBA was not given the check that was written out to them in the first place.
Kimack addressed Meade and asked her, “If, Michele, the check came to you, but it was addressed to the PBA, why would you then take it upon yourself to then have the donor re-write the check to the township?”
Meade responded, “I didn’t take it upon myself. The letter was written to the chief and myself.” Meade also said that she left the decision up to the donor and the donor chose to re-write the check to the town.
Meade said that the check came to her office and she saw that the check was made out to the PBA. She called the donor to tell them that the township could not cash a check made out to the PBA. According to Meade, the donor clarified that he wanted to give the money to benefit the police department. Meade told the donor that in that case, he would need to re-issue the check to the township.
Meade also said that once the re-issued check was received it was cashed and transferred into the police donation account.
Kimack argued that if the check was made out to the PBA, and it was clear in the letter that the donor intended for it to go to the PBA it should have been given to the PBA.
“The issue that I have is that if a check is addressed to me and you happen to receive it, what you would normally do is give me the check and say ‘oh, I received this in error,’ and then give me the check,” said Kimack. “This didn’t seem to happen when it came to the PBA…there was a decision made that ‘hey, this money is going to go to the township and the PBA can’t be trusted with handling this $10,000 donation to perhaps put it towards plate readers’.”
Meade said that she was sorry he felt that way and that was not the case. “The bottom line is that the resident donated the money to serve the police department and the money was put there (in the police donation account) to serve the police department.”
Kimack was not satisfied with Meade’s answer saying that the main issue was that the letter clearly expressed the donor’s intent to give the money to the PBA for the benefit of the police department. “The check was made out to the PBA, and therefore, the check should have been handed over to the PBA so they could have taken care of the donor’s wishes in a timely fashion.”
The Livingston residents that donated the $10,000 check were contacted by TheAlternativePress.com and chose not to comment.
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