HACKENSACK, NJ -- Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino resigned late Friday after a growing chorus of local, state and federal officials called for his resignation following an explosive report from the public radio station WNYC in which the Sheriff is caught making racially insensitive remarks characterizing state officials.
Saudino, who was first elected as a Republican before switching parties and winning re-election to his current term in 2016 as a Democrat, was caught in a recording making insensitive remarks about African Americans, as well as the state's Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is a Glen Rock resident and member of the Sikh community.
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office announces that effective this date and at this time Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino has submitted his resignation as the Sheriff of Bergen County.
Additionally, Executive Undersheriff George Buono, Undersheriff Robert Colaneri, Undersheriff Brian Smith and Undersheriff Joseph Hornyak have also submitted their resignations effective immediately.
Pending the appointment of an interim sheriff by Governor Phil Murphy, Sheriff’s Office Chief Kevin Pell will be the officer-in-charge of the sheriff’s department’s operations and Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Warden Steve Ahrendt will be the officer-in-charge of the Bergen County jail’s operations
In one WNYC recording found online, Saudino said, regarding Gov. Phil Murphy's criminal justice reforms, "In other words, let the blacks do whatever the **** they want, smoke the marijuana, do this, do that and don't worry about it. Tie the hands of the cops."
And then regarding Grewal who was appointed State Attorney General after serving as Bergen County Attorney General, Saudino is recorded as saying, "He [referring to Gov. Murphy] didn't do that to help our county, he did that because of the turban."
“The Sheriff’s comments were indefensible, and it was clear he could no longer serve the people of Bergen County effectively. We cannot and must not tolerate discrimination from anyone, let alone our elected officials," Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco said late yesterday after Saudino's resignation. "Bergen County’s diversity is our strength and my administration works every day to ensure inclusion within County government and throughout our 70 municipalities. I have been in contact with state and local officials to ensure a smooth transition. I do not believe the Sheriff’s comments reflect the values of the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department who work hard to keep our communities safe.”
The Bergen County Police Benevolent Association Local 134 released a statement, as well:
"We agree with Michael Saudino’s decision to resign from his position as Sheriff effective immediately as his statements do not reflect the opinions or values of any member of PBA Local 134.
The men and women of Bergen County PBA Local 134 will contact New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in the very near future to discuss what PBA Local 134 can do to try to undo the damage that may have been caused to all law enforcement personnel employed within Bergen County, as a direct result of the Sheriff's comments.
The Sheriff's unconscionable statements do not reflect the opinions of any member of the law enforcement community that PBA Local 134 represents. We reaffirm our commitment to work together with representatives of all of our minority communities in Bergen County to develop and maintain positive relationships with their constituencies who justifiably have been outraged by Sheriff Saudino's comments.
Bergen County PBA Local 134 is the representative of approximately 437 Bergen County Sheriff's Officers and Correction Officers below the rank of Captain. We are a diverse labor organization that includes both female Officers, who comprise over 12% of all the Sheriff's Officers and Correction Officers employed within Bergen County, as well as many minority Officers within all of the ranks of our bargaining unit.
Our Union's Executive Board has reviewed the recorded conversation engaged in by Sheriff Michael Saudino on January 16, 2018 following Governor Murphy's Gubernatorial Inauguration.
There is no excuse for making racist, homophobic and hateful statements, at a time when it is necessary for all of us to come together and recognize that the color of a person's skin, ethnicity or religion should never be the subject of negative commentary and offensive language.
The Bergen County Sheriff's Office is the largest law enforcement agency in Bergen County and, including the Sheriff's Officers and Correction Officers within our bargaining unit, there are approximately 600 dedicated personnel employed within that Office. The Sheriff's Office's responsibilities include a broad range of services and functions which provide law enforcement assistance to the public, supplement the County's Municipal Police Departments and safeguard judicial proceedings in the County.
The Sheriff's Office is a 24-hour operation staffed by some of the best and most well-trained Officers and civilians working the field of law enforcement today. We cannot and will not accept discrimination or prejudice towards anyone."
Gov. Murphy quickly called for Saudino's resignation following the publication of the remarks on Thursday. He was followed by Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) and Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) and a host of others.
"Without question, the comments made on that recording are appalling, and anyone using racist, homophobic, and hateful language is unfit for public office," the Democratic governor said in a statement. "If indeed that is Sheriff Saudino's voice on the recording, he must resign."
Before resigning, Saudino apologized to the "people of Bergen County for the insensitive recorded remarks," saying they "are not representative of the person that I am." He cited his efforts to increase the diversity of the Bergen County Sheriff's Department, indicated he had reached out to "communities I have offended" and pledged to "continue to treat everyone with the respect and dignity that is deserved by all."
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senator Paul Sarlo and Senator Joseph Lagana (all D-Bergen) issued the following joint statement on Friday following the resignation of Saudino:
“With Sheriff Michael’s Saudino’s resignation today, the department now has the opportunity to move forward, learn from this despicable episode and work towards ensuring this type of behavior is never repeated. The kind of disgusting language former Sheriff Saudino used has no place here in Bergen County or in New Jersey. Our residents expect and deserve more from our elected officials, especially those who are entrusted to enforce our laws.
“We also want to express our sincere appreciation to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal for his outstanding work advocating for all New Jerseyans. Attorney General Grewal is a Bergen County resident who has spent a career in law enforcement fighting crimes and standing up for taxpayers. Yet despite being insulted for his religious beliefs on two separate occasions, he has shown us all how to rise above the hate.”
Republican candidate for congress John McCann released the following statement just before Saudino resigned:
"Sheriff Michael Saudino must resign immediately. These comments are offensive and hurtful. I am saddened for the good men and women in law enforcement in Bergen County who do an outstanding job protecting us."
Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully (both D-Bergen/Passaic) today called upon the Sheriff to resign his position a day before his resignation, as well.
“The statements of Sheriff Saudino are abhorrent and unbecoming of a public servant representing Bergen County. We condemn what was said on the tape in the strongest possible terms. Hate and bigotry have no place in our society. For the good of the office and for the good of the residents of Bergen County, we are calling on Sheriff Saudino to resign immediately.”