NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Several residents took to last night’s City Council meeting, asking officials not to criminally charge the editor of a local newspaper whose offices were the subject of a search warrant this week by police.
Charlie Kratovil, co-founder and editor of the activist community newspaper New Brunswick Today, said he received a New Brunswick Water Utility water meter from a confidential source. After he included the object in a live video, the water utility reported it stolen, prompting police to obtain a search warrant on Tuesday and ultimately confiscate the device.
The move upset Kratovil, who did not attend the Dec. 21 council meeting, and his supporters. They said city police wrongly interfered with the work of a journalist who is investigating allegations of misconduct among water utility employees.
Mayor James Cahill’s office, meanwhile, released a statement yesterday suggesting that Kratovil might have broken the law by receiving stolen property.
“I don’t know if there are any potential charges against Mr. Kratovil and the water utility whistleblower,” Jenny Goldberg, a Mine Street resident and reporter for New Brunswick Today, said during public comment, “but I demand that the town drop any potential charges and face what is really going on.”
Another resident, Eric Nuber, said he believes a 2001 Supreme Court case and state laws designed to aid journalists and whistleblowers should protect the newspaper and its editor from criminal charges. Nuber requested the city forego pressing charges.
Some people have questioned why New Brunswick police detectives felt it necessary to obtain the search warrant. Kratovil and Capt. J.T. Miller have acknowledged that they first planned to meet early today, and the reporter intended to bring the water meter.
“They wanted the meter before the meeting, and he wouldn’t give it to them,” Council President Kevin Egan said during the council meeting. “That’s why we obtained the search warrant.”
City Hall has equated Kratovil’s possession of the meter to “tampering,” as police are indeed investigating allegations of corruption within the water utility.
In total, three residents—two of whom write for New Brunswick Today—spoke to the issue. Following the meeting, a crowd of a dozen or so people gathered outside council chambers. A number of them told TAPinto New Brunswick that they came to support Kratovil.