Union County News

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

740a0aaf85c417fa3bdf_best_7c262558d12200acabe6_Pic2-Police_Cards.JPG
Mountainside Police Lieutenant Thomas Murphy and Police Chief Allan Attanasio. Credits: TAPinto Archive
740a0aaf85c417fa3bdf_best_7c262558d12200acabe6_Pic2-Police_Cards.JPG

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph Giannuzzi, who was named officer in charge of the department. 

Related story: Sex Toys, Gay Jokes, Nepotism, Frat-Boy Pranks; Mountainside P.D. Out of Control Says Lawsuit

Two other police officers, Lt. Thomas Murphy and Detective Sgt. Andrew Huber, were placed on “an administrative leave of absence,” according to a post on the borough’s website and reported by TAPinto Mountainside here

Sign Up for E-News

The lawsuit against the borough alleges salacious, demeaning, and potentially dangerous behavior by long-time police officers, including at least one police chief in the Mountainside department.  While the only defendant in the suit at this time is the borough, the lawsuit describes numerous bad acts by Debbie, Attanasio, Huber, Murphy,  Mountainside Mayor Paul Mirabelli and Mountainside Councilman Keith Turner.

The lawsuit, which was filed on May 11 by five Mountainside Police Officers Jeffrey Stinner, Christopher Feighner, Richard Latargia, Thomas Norton, James Urban and part-time dispatcher Amy Coliner, has gone viral, both in print papers nationwide, on the web and on social media, since TAPinto Mountainside first reported on the story on Tuesday morning May 15. It has rattled the town and its residents, many of whom have posted comments and taken a public stance on whether the police should be supported, or not, on local social media sites.

The attorney who filed the suit, Charles J. Sciarra, of Sciarra & Catrambone, LLC was unavailable for comment, but has issued a statement on the lawsuit. “The filed complaint was thoroughly vetted before drafting, was filed in accordance with the laws of the state, and speaks for itself,” the statement reads. As for the allegations within the complaint, there would be no comment, he said.

He did have a comment on the statement posted on the Mountainside website by the governing body and referred to a YouTube video of the Jan. 17, 2017 meeting of the council.

The video, which is an official recording of the meeting, shows Westfield attorney Joshua F. McMahon's appearance before the council. Beginning at about 10:38 on the video, McMahon said to the council he wanted to tell them about “pervasive and systemic problems you have in your police department.”

He had a laptop computer with him and offered to show the council the “alleged evidence” of this misconduct and was shut down by the mayor, who said, “Report it to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.” Mirabelli, responding to comments by McMahon said he has interest in misconduct but only “after it is properly investigated.”

Calls to McMahon, who was reported to be out of town, have not been returned. 

Sciarra said in his statement, the video, “recorded sixteen months before this suit was filed, demonstrates the disinterest of the mayor and others in hearing about issues in the police department raised by an attorney for another police officer … The suggestion these people took appropriate action when issues were brought to their attention is a legal and factual zero.” 

During a Mountainside Council meeting which took place six months later, on June 20, the council adopted two ordinances:

79-2017 Indemnifying Hearing Officer Robert Verry, and

80-2017 Indemnifying the Mountainside Governing Body.

According to Resolution 79-2017, Verry asked to be indemnified in the event a claim or lawsuit is filed against him as a result of his involvement in a “disciplinary proceeding … involving a member of the Borough of Mountainside Police Department.”

When it was introduced for a vote, only the first paragraph was read, “Having appointed Hearing Officer Robert Verry under Resolution 109-2016 this resolution will allow for the indemnification of the Hearing Officer from any claim or lawsuit arising from disciplinary proceedings during the discharge of his duties.”  

The final paragraph of the resolution reads: “… in consideration of the continued orderly and effective operation of the Mountainside Police Department and its individual officers and further in consideration of the most orderly and effective and cost effective management of the instant disciplinary proceeding, the governing body of the Borough of Mountainside does hereby agree to indemnify, defend and save harmless Robert Verry of and from any and all claims, demands, losses, expenses, attorney’s fees, settlements, penalties, causes of action, judgments, damages and/or any and all liability whatsoever that may result or be determined to be due and owing by reason of any claim arising out of his discharge of his duties as Hearing Officer. This shall remain a continuing obligation of the governing body and the Borough of Mountainside to Robert Verry until the conclusion of the instant disciplinary proceedings.

The text is similar in Resolution 80-2017, except 80-2017 references the “governance of the Borough and further in consideration of the most orderly and effective and cost effective management of the instant disciplinary proceeding, the Governing Body of the Borough of Mountainside does hereby agree to indemnify, defend and save harmless the members of the Governing Body of the Borough of Mountainside, both in their official capacities and individually,”  

No mention is made of the type of “instant disciplinary proceedings” or the police department. The complete text of both resolutions can be found on the website here.

The previous work session minutes did not contain any reference to indemnifying Verry or the Governing Body.

Verry was appointed at the Nov. 22, 2016 meeting of the council when it approved Resolution 109-2016 “Authorization to appoint Robert Verry as a Hearing Officer.” Resolution 79-2017 notes, the effect of resolution 109-2016 is to “delegate to Robert Verry the authority of the Police Committee of the Governing Body to hear and decide matters in the aforesaid disciplinary proceedings, and that in such circumstances Robert Verry is acting as a local public employee.”  

The disciplinary hearing being referred to in the resolutions was not related to the three officers who are now on administrative leave.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Plainfield Woman Admits to Animal Cruelty    

June 23, 2018

PLAINFIELD, NJ — A Plainfield resident has admitted responsibility for neglect that resulted in the deaths of multiple puppies, according to both the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Suzie Bourdouvales, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree animal cruelty earlier this week before state Superior ...

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting on June 19

June 22, 2018

I opened the Board meeting on a somber note, announcing the death of sophomore student Carthoris ‘Carter’ Uziel.  Words cannot convey the grief we feel in the Westfield Public Schools community over his death.  We extend our condolences to the Uziel family.  I noted that school counselors are available for all students or staff who may wish to discuss their feelings ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_0261cd4c5700fd63e54b_spb-4937_newsletter_june_24

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Southern Maryland Blue ...

Sports

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

Westfield Neighborhood Council, Westfield

Lego Club Kick-Off Event

Carousel_image_ba23f8d0d41677854e89_spb-4937_newsletter_june_26

Tue, June 26, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. New Britain Bees Baseball ...

Sports

Westfield Police Blotter: Criminal Mischief to Vehicles Continues & More

June 20, 2018

June 13, 2018 9:24 a.m.

Officer Santangelo arrested Hakan Kaya, age 46, of Westfield, New Jersey on an outstanding warrant (#E19490) in the amount of $304.00 out of Neptune City Municipal Court pursuant to turning himself in at WPD Headquarters. Subject was processed and released after posting the full bail amount.

 

June 13, 2018 11:02 a.m.

Lieutenant McFarlean and Officer ...

All New Blue Jean Ball Fights Hunger with Style

June 23, 2018

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey held its All New Blue Jean Ball on Saturday, June 16 at the Central Railroad Terminal in Liberty State Park. Historically a low-key affair, the annual gala was revamped, reimagined, and reinvigorated this year with a sophisticated style that drew 465 guests, whose generous donations raised more than $1.1 million to benefit the FoodBank’s hunger relief ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

Let's Talk About Suicide

In our world today, it seems our children, no matter the town, state, education, family unit, socioeconomic background, ethnicity or religion are grappling with complex, confounding and complicated issues not even fit for a middle-aged adult. Sadly, one of these issues is suicide. With mental health gaining more attention, the stigma appears to be dissipating but when a mental health ...

Cool Ways to Save Money This Summer

As the summer temperatures rise, home cooling costs rise as well. But there are ways to help save money without sweating the heat:

To increase your cooling system’s efficiency by as much as 20%, get it checked out for summer.  A technician will clean the condenser, make sure you have the optimal amount of refrigerant, and ensure the airflow over the coil is ...

Understand the New Law for Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave is now the law in New Jersey.

New Jersey has passed a paid sick leave law which preempts paid sick leave ordinances adopted by several cities and towns so there is now one uniform law in this area for New Jersey employers. Here is what you need to know about the new law.

33 Homes Sold June 10 to June 17 in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Thirty-three Homes sold from June 10 to June 17, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside.*

 

TOWN         ADDRESS                      STYLE    ...

Westfield 3rd Graders Receive Top Honors at Mock Trial Competition

Westfield third graders recently received top honors for three mock court cases they presented at the New Jersey Bar Foundation Law Fair.

“I am proud that, out of 84 entries submitted, our third grade students (now fourth graders) in the Gifted Program have won 1st Place, 2nd Place and Honorable Mention in the 3rd Grade category [of the Law Fair ...

Maximizing Your Portfolio’s Returns -- Beware the Taxman

The old adage in the investment world is that it is not what you make, but what you keep that counts.  Investors often overlook the ultimate deflator of portfolio returns – the taxman. An astute global asset allocation should be the number one priority for investors.  However, there are preferred ways to distribute this asset allocation over the spectrum of taxable and ...

Greatness

In honor of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's (of righteous memory) 24th  Yahrtzeit (anniversary of his passing) this coming Saturday the 16th.

Excerpts from an address given by Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel on April 7, 1992, at a congressional dinner held in Washington on the occasion of the Rebbe's 90th birthday.

Some of you are aware of my admiration, not only ...

Healthy U Spring Symposium Marks 10 Years of Community Impact

WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 100 Healthy U champions and partners from YMCAs and schools from all over the state gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on May 18 to celebrate 10 years of community impact. Healthy U was also formally presented with the 2017 CATCH® Award for Excellence in State Health. 

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the ...

Bridgewater Mall Shut Down for 2 Hours After Fight Breaks Out

June 14, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ — No injuries have been reported after a fight involving a crowd of people shut down the Bridgewater Commons Mall for two hours Thursday evening.

According to a Nixle alert from the Bridgewater Township Police Department at 9 p.m., the investigation at the mall has been completed, and the mall was resuming normal business operations.

According to Somerset County ...

Obituaries

Eric Lieberman, 47, of Scotch Plains, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday, May 22, 2018 ...
Read more