HAMILTON, NJ -- After more than a year of controversy surrounding the Hamilton Township Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, a Mercer County grand jury handed down an indictment Wednesday accusing the head of the facility of improperly euthanizing animals in his care.

According to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Jeff Plunkett, 63, Hamilton, faces two counts of third-degree animal cruelty and one count of second-degree official misconduct. This indictment comes in addition to charges filed in May against Plunkett and Todd Bencivengo, 57, of North Hanover, who served as the supervisor of the animal shelter. 

Councilwoman Ileana Schirmer, co-chairperson of the Township Council Animal Shelter subcommittee, said that Plunkett was never cooperative with their efforts to get to the bottom of shelter mismanagement.

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"The bottom line is that he didn't do his job. He didn't run the shelter properly. He didn't own up to his mistakes," said Schirmer.   "The facts came out today."

Councilman Rick Tighe, the also a co-chair of the subcommittee, declined to comment further while the case is pending.  

An investigation by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Humane Law Enforcement Unit (HLEU) began in August 2019 after two complaints were referred to the office by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.   The HLEU investigation revealed that between January 1, 2016 and October 1, 2018, approximately 236 cats and 93 dogs were euthanized before holding the animals or offering them for adoption for at least seven days, as required by state law.

Bencivengo has since been accepted into the pretrial intervention program in connection with the charges against him. 

While the HLEU animal shelter investigation uncovered multiple examples of alleged mismanagement no additional criminal charges were filed. 

Plunkett will be arraigned on the charges at a date to be determined.  

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