SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Scotch Plains Building Department Construction Official/Zoning Officer Bob LaCosta and the township have reached an agreement in which he has accepted a suspension for sending and receiving racist emails from his township email account. He will be reinstated sometime next next year.
In his written apology for the recent events surrounding the discovery of offensive e-mails from the township-mail system, Lacosta wrote:
I sincerely apologize for the egregious lapse of judgment in that I forwarded what I now recognized to be offensive “joke” e-mails. I have always strived to be fair and tolerant of all parties in both my professionals and personal life.
These e-mails would lead one to believe otherwise. I am especially sorry because they reflect upon my service to the public. I do not wish my legacy to be tainted by this unfortunate incident. Accordingly, I shall in the future strive to always recognize that words can be very hurtful and that when a joke is offensive it is not a joke. Believe me, I have learned my lesson and it is my intent to make township government proud of my service.
Afterwards, a tearful and apologetic LaCosta before a packed Scotch Plains Municipal Courtroom filled with his supporters explained: “I know what I did was wrong. I’ve accepted my suspension and will return when it’s over.”
LaCosta has worked for the Township of Scotch Plains for more than three decades. As head of the Building Department, he had oversight of the Engineering, Health, Zoning and Planning Departments. A Vietnam combat veteran, Lacosta is a longtime member of New Jersey Planning Officials, NJ Zoning Officials, NJ League of Municipalities, and the NJ Building Officials Association (BOANJ). He is also active in the Italian American Club of Scotch Plains.
“Bob is the consummate professional. I don’t know of anyone who’s given more of themselves to make Scotch plains a better place to live,” said Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover. “I’m really relieved that this is all behind us now. We need to move forward.”
Outgoing Scotch Plains Township Manager Jerry Giaimis, who served as the hearing officer this afternoon, came to the decision after negotiations between the township’s labor attorney and Ted Schiller, Esq., who represented LaCosta in the proceedings. Giaimis sought to fire Lacosta.
"Bob acknowledged that he made an error in judgment, and we agreed on the terms of the suspension,” explained Schiller in a phone conversation with TAP into Scotch Plains-Fanwood. “The manager did the right thing in not terminating Bob, given his extensive service to the town and an unblemished record. The agreement allows a valued employee of the Township to return to duty.”
"This matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Upon learning of this situation my office took swift and appropriate action to remedy it," Jerry Giaimis said. "While the details of the penalty are personnel matters and not disclosable by me, I can tell you that it is a major discipline as defined by the civil service commission."
"My initial reaction was based on my personal disgust for such material and the fact that there is no place for this, especially when using public resources," Giaimis explained. "That said, Mr. LaCosta seemed genuinely contrite and there was never any indication that the views expressed in those emails manifested themselves during the course of his professional duties. He has recognized the seriousness of the situation and is taking appropriate steps to be sure this doesn't happen again."
Giaimis said that the situation "has made for a very difficult week in Scotch Plains" and that he is glad that he and Mr. Schiller were able to "come to a reasonable solution that both recognizes the seriousness of the offense and allows all the parties involved to move forward amicably."