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Sunday
Jul312016

Welcome back National Night Out (NNO)!

Mayor Robert White explained the origins of National Night Out and said it was part of a national program throughout the United States, starting in 1984 to bring public attention to crime prevention. He said it has expanded since then to a night where residents can meet their first responders, police, fire and EMS. "That's where we took it," said White. It's a well-rounded public safety program." **

Well just to fill in the empty gaps a bit, where he stated: “residents can meet their first responders, police, fire and EMS”, was ALWAYS the case and why NNO was formulated in the first place. But for some reason the mayor wants to give the impression he is doing something different this year.  

White further said the township has not hosted National Night Out for the last few years. To clarify, Saddle Brook PD has not hosted a NNO for the last six years, ending in 2010 if I am not mistaken.

I originally started and introduced NNO to Saddle Brook on August 2, 1990. In those days there were not many police departments offering any National Night Out Against Crime. Saddle Brook was one of the major leaders who championed the concept which originated on the west coast.

Also in those days S.B.P.D. also offered many other crime prevention programs. During that time I also created the Crime Prevention Bureau which organized block watches as well as a host of other crime prevention initiatives. Within a few years after that I, along with then Sgt. Glenn Toepert, created the now defunct Community Services Bureau that married all of the PD’s crime prevention programs with the Juvenile Bureau.

During those years Saddle Brook Police offered more services to the residents and children of Saddle Brook then they ever had before or since. They were good, prosperous years.

I am hoping that the return of NNO in Saddle Brook in 2016 is a sign of more comprehensive things to come!! 

** National Night Out returns in Saddle Brook

BY MATTHEW MILSOP

STAFF WRITER | 

COMMUNITY NEWS (ELMWOOD PARK EDITION)
Friday
Jul292016

Stacked Deck

The family, All In The Family, is getting bigger by the minute I see. Pretty soon the Kugler Dynasty will be overtaken by the White Dynasty as it appears the mayor is slowly but surely learning the ways of political control, apparently by his friend and mentor, Robert Kugler.

I always called Ed Kugler the Bill Clinton of Saddle Brook politics. Nowhere near Clinton as a smooth talker, much scrappier around the edges to say the least, but always seeming to get things done to benefit the family. If anyone would say he didn’t do good things for the township as both a councilman and a mayor, they would be wrong. He did. But as he himself has said, “there is no reason to get involved in politics unless your family can benefit”.

You also can’t dismiss the fact that his son and police chief, Robert Kugler, is well educated and passed every test to gain his rank in the PD. What you can also be equally sure of is that any and all obstacles that may have been in his way were removed from that preconceived path. The Chief always treated me very well while I was employed at the PD. It’s a shame that all went by the wayside when I retired and was no longer of any use. That work ethic of ‘what have you done for me lately’ is now ostensibly rubbing off on Mayor White.

“A man with a silver spoon may get his share of supporters, but he can never be an inspiration for somebody! Patience and hard work are the key to every man's success.”   -Kailash Kher-

Maybe that shiny silver spoon is now being passed to a less lucky person in birth but blessed (or used) with being at the right place at the right time.

I have spouted off in past posts regarding why I believe it dangerous to have a mayor who has too much control. That no one person should have such influence as to singlehandedly and arbitrarily control or affect the lives of many. To a lesser degree then I had hoped, I explained how political influence manipulated and personally hurt a particular family in town and why the mayor and council and the board of education were conceived as separate entities and why they should therefore remain that way.

Then I happen to come across a troubling article. A Saddle Brook / Elmwood Park Daily Voice article written by Cindy Capitani and published on July 12, 2016, “Saddle Brook Mayor: I Love This Town”.  I can’t help but pick this article apart because it begs to be. Seeming laudable that the mayor works for only $1 dollar a year, when he rightfully receives well over $140,000 in pension and accumulated sick days, giving up a measly $5000 a year mayoral salary isn’t exactly a hardship.

"Coming from an administrative position in the police department and knowing the town and how government works, that was a big advantage for me”, said White. However, I believe having Bob Kugler as his mentor, was and is his big advantage. In all the years White was a Captain or Deputy Chief, I can’t remember a single instance when his administrative abilities affected us underlings lower on the totem pole. But maybe the article just means he learned how to read spreadsheets.

Also rather humorous was his comment of, “The hardest part, he said, is not being able to make everyone happy. Just because you're mayor doesn't mean everything is in your hands”.  Through his entire campaign all he ever continually tried to do was ‘make everyone happy’, never committing or taking a stand.  Something I called him on more than once. That was one of the main reasons we had more than a few strained conversation while I was managing his mayoral website. This was something even his running mates despised and while to this day, won’t allow everything in your hands! Contrary to what you see monthly on TV, the all in the family, is NOT the council.

The most political, and if not political then ignorant, statements in this article was “He's married, with two sons and a daughter, ages 25-31.This of course was to convey a well-established man of honor and distinction. Not to say he isn’t honorable and technically legally true that he is married, it would be closer to the truth to say he's presently separated, having two sons and a daughter, ages 25-31. No one held Karen Chamberlain accountable for her personal life and the same should be true now.

But the telltale comment within this article was:  The former school board president also wants to see the council and school board work more closely.  "I want us to operate less as two entities," he said. "We’re a small town and everything comes out of the same pot of money. We might as well do what we can to work together." Sounds plausible in theory but misplaced when considering possible total political control. The same hand in to many cookie jars just makes for a compulsive and egotistical dictator. Should those of you who believe my use of the word dictator is way too harsh, ask the two incumbent democratic candidates.

To that end we now learn that Timmy White, son of Mayor White, is running for the Saddle Brook BOE. With a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership you can’t say he has no qualifications. But you can question the timeliness of this venture. Is it really advantageous to have another White as a board trustee while this trustee’s father is the mayor? Why now? Although nepotism does not apply in this case, its definition does. With perception being EVERYTHING, wouldn’t it be less likely a false perception of impropriety would occur if both men weren’t in office at the same time? Or is it striking while the iron is hot all that matters.   

And then finally you have Joe Zottarelli, Dave Gierek, Angela Robinson and incumbent trustee Michael Accomando, all running for three seats. Any of those names belong to the family? Zottarelli and Gierek certainly do while Accomando certainly does not.  Conspicuously absent from these candidates’ names is Vincent Laurentino. Hum!! With Mrs. Zottarelli, board President and mayoral pick, Dave Gierek being the mayor’s foiled pick for a council candidate and also his campaign manager, and the mayor’s son now running, wouldn’t you say it appears the mayor has the deck stacked?

I had always believed that the Chamberlame administration was the most conniving. I have come to learn that couldn’t be further from the truth. They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I don’t believe that is true either. 

Thursday
Jul212016

ALL IN THE FAMILY – Pt#??

Unfortunately I am unable to write the fourth and final piece to my “All In The Family” due to ongoing litigation. Though technically it is not litigation but more of a procedural process by the Saddle Brook Board of Education. But to be fair to all parties concerned, it is better I don’t tell the real story if for no other reason than it will piss off the people that will decide this process which will ultimately and undoubtedly impact the victim family.

The hard truth is that while most of the BOE members appeared to be on the side of the victim family whose father happens to be one of their fellow board members, a few who decided politics was more important, were not.

The future good news is that both Councilman Cimiluca and Councilwoman D’Arminio intend to pass an ordinance regulating the township’s use of social media. A lot of what has happened with this entire incident has very much to do with what was said and who said it on social media. The mayor himself made a faux pas on Facebook while commenting to a post by a captain of the police department. Bottom line to this is that the captain should never have publicly expressed his opinion, the mayor should have realized this but instead fueled the fire and was forced to change his post and then apologize to the victim family, and top it all off, the mayor should have ordered the police chief to see to it that this captain was in some way disciplined. But since this captain is running for office on the BOE, is politically endorsed by the mayor, and the brother-in-law of the chief of police, nothing has nor nothing will happen. Understandable.

Mayor White publicly stated at the July council meeting that he was all in favor of a social media ordinance. The question now, and the fight I assume, will be if there is any teeth to this ordinance. No different than the townships anti-nepotism “executive order” which has no teeth and is not law, can anyone or will anyone be held accountable.

The mayor said there is already a social media policy within the township “handbook”. The board of education has recently adopted a social media policy. Will just the both of these be the model for the township ordinance? Councilwoman D’Arminio intends to also look into a policy from a former state trooper who owns a company that offers this service which is geared to including the police department. These services are accredited by police chiefs association.

The council cried uncle to the mayor with the anti-nepotism ordinance. They knuckled under because they couldn’t get their act together. Even some on this council can’t see the forest through the trees and acknowledge the goings-on under their watch. By ‘executive order’ only, and not being an ordinance, they inadvertently gave full accountability to the mayor when he is part of the problem! No one person should have the ultimate say. Laws are what keep things fair.

Let’s now watch and see if this goes the way it should or by the wayside.  

Sunday
Jul172016

Police Shootings Aftermath– As I see it

What I am most afraid of for the short term, is the way police officers will be judged by what I’ll call the “misunderstanding public”. Whether employed by a 30,000 manned force or a 30 manned force, police officers will be, understandably, more uptight, untrusting, and less likely, to cut anyone any slack in their effort to not expose themselves to any possible harm. This will have the potential to give the motoring public and/or the public at large, the impression that police officers are not treating them nicely or fairly. The public may get the impression that the cops “think who the hell they are”. Not understanding what the cop may be thinking and procedurally what he has to do to protect himself from the unknown, may come off to the regular Jane or Joe that he is simply being a bastard.

At a time when most sane people are crying out for understanding, working together, accepting one and other with open minds for a civil dialogue, the unanticipated consequences could be quite different.

If you are pulled over, understand that the officer might stand far back from your door which will cause you to have to twist your neck far to the left to speak with him. He does that so as not to put himself in a direct line of fire, not to purposely cause you discomfort. Let him see BOTH your hands on top of the steering wheel BEFORE he asks. Do NOT immediately reach into your glove compartment anticipating the officer will be asking for your registration and insurance card. Wait until he is at your door and watching your movements. Observing you move to your glove compartment before he is standing beside you will cause him to take a defensive mental position that you may have possibly reached into the compartment for a weapon.

If you are pulled over at nighttime, do not be offended if the officer shines his spotlight into your side-view or rear-mirror. He is not doing that to purposely annoy you or treat you like a common criminal. It just allows him to observe you more clearly while walking up to your vehicle while you are less likely to clearly aim a weapon at him.

Whether involved in a motor vehicle stop or approached by the police for any other reason, if you feel you were treated unfairly, you have every right to complain and make a “federal case” out of it if you like. Just don’t do it then. Any argument with the officer will only escalate into a bigger problem. Take note of or ask the officer for his badge number. The next day you can freely go to police headquarters, speak with the officer’s commanding officer or lodge a formal complaint.

99.9% of the time the police are not harassing you. Either he/she sincerely believes you committed an infraction of the law or, if honest with yourself, deep down inside you know you probably did.

The cops are going to have the jitters for a while now. Making it a bit easier for him/her will only make it a lot easier for you. 

Saturday
Jul092016

ALL IN THE FAMILY – Pt#3

I ended my last post saying what I believe Saddle Brook desperately needs: “No King’s or Queens to rule. Just laws, policies, and procedures applied and applicable to everyone.” My next example includes members of the township, the police department, and the board of education, all inharmonious, and at the exact same time. Though subtle nuances during particular instances will unfortunately be lost, trying to be all inclusive would only distract from the larger point which would therefore become ambiguous. 

Apparently, an incident took place in early 2016 at a Saddle Brook elementary school. The child victim, as I will refer to him, was in fourth grade. While in gym class the child was embarrassed when his gym teacher, who was only recently employed by the district, yelled out an embarrassing accusation in front of the whole class.   The other students joined in with the badgering of the student who was demeaned by the teacher.  He also was made a spectacle of by being called an offensive name by the teacher during a separate incident. There was no disciplinary action by administration which is what prompted the questioning by the parents. 

From what I've been told, this child has been distraught over the whole situation. 

Being concerned that he was being questioned by a Board of ED member’s wife for the name calling, the gym teacher responded the best way he knew how, by videotaping the class and the child! However, this child’s parents weren't so forgiving with videotaping without their consent. 

Around this time, this teacher was involved in an unrelated incident when he videotaped another child in the gym and immediately uploaded to YouTube. The infraction made here was that this teacher never asked for nor received parental permission to videotape or upload this video. When this child’s parents were made aware, they chose to not pursue it any further, in my opinion, a dis-service to the entire school system and every parent. 

Notice that not until just now did I reveal that the parents of the child victim are actually a Saddle Brook Board of Education Trustee, and a school teacher in another municipality. It shouldn’t matter whether you have that particular piece of information or not, but some people do have prejudices which can quickly slant how they see, feel, and ultimately act, in a given situation. In this case certain people in power showed their real colors. 

So after this latest incident the victim’s parents had enough of the schools ineptitude. The mother then filed an HIB report, Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying (HIB) as prescribed by law, (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.). 

The report’s findings were presented to the board of education, but as of right now there are still processes and procedures being conducted that I’m not at liberty to discuss. 

Though out of sequence here, another point to ponder is that the father and board member of the child victim, went to police to lodge a formal complaint when he found out the teacher had videotaped his son and the class. After repeated attempts and apparently being stalled, when finally received, the police report was nothing more than a regurgitation of the incidents. No investigation was conducted. 

Since the time of the original incident the superintendent, Bert Ammerman, had been fired. 

A reminder, I did say this story would be convoluted and hard to follow. To this point what is even harder to understand is the involvement of all the players I previously mentioned. In my next and final post regarding this subject, I will explain in great detail how this is “all in the family” and why, especially in Saddle Brook, there needs to be LAWS, not just policies, that can and will insure people, all people, are treated with fairness and respect. 

*I have been informed that a discussion for an ordinance will occur at the July council meeting.  

Friday
Jul012016

ALL IN THE FAMILY – Pt#2

I wasn’t entirely clear in my previous post by inadvertently leaving out my main point to this long novel of a story. My major point is simple. Within any productive governing body, to be both protective to the people they govern, yet conform to the rules or standards so as to remain legitimate and unbiased, must act as and accordance with, a bonafide “body” of people. One person, one president, or one mayor, cannot or should not be allowed to formulate rules, regulations, policies, or executive orders, which only she/he himself as the power to enforce. It has often be said and much more often proved that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It is for this reason I choose to be long-winded in my explanation for supplying actual examples within the recent past. These examples are not hypothetical or made up. They are just actual occurrences that make my point.

My first example was the October 5, 2015 incident at Franklin School where one student verbally threatened another by stating he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot him while the victim’s parents strongly objected to the way in which both the school administration and the police department handled the incident.

To connect the dots you’ll have to remember that at the time, there was no clear and concise procedural policy in place to handle this situation. Secondly, you also have to consider the players involved, namely Mayor Robert White, retired deputy police chief, Dave Gierek, B.O.E. President and protégé of the mayor as a council candidate, Police Chief Robert Kugler, White’s mentor and role model, and Det. Capt. Vincent Laurentino, investigator of the incident, brother-in-law of the mayor’s mentor / role model and his commander in chief, Robert Kugler.  

They all have a stake in the appearance of what occurred here. They all had a hand in its outcome. And they all had a stake on how they would personally appear. Sometimes being too close to one another can be just as detrimental as being at each other’s throat. It is not their fault nor should they be held at fault, that they are all close and in the family. However, it is one thing to trust, but as President Reagan once said, “Trust but verify”. Trust, but verify is a form of advice given which recommends that while a source of information might be considered reliable, one should perform additional research to verify that such information is accurate, or trustworthy. Or, is Saddle Brook’s case, without prejudice to any individual in the family or out.  

When it’s all “in-house, all in the family” with no written rules to follow, the appearance of impropriety is great, and the temptation even greater.  This is not to say any impropriety actually occurred but rather why there should always be written laws or rules that will be applied without prejudice. No King’s or Queens to rule. Just laws, policies, and procedures applicable to everyone.

Part #3 will be a lengthy post attempting to explain another incident where the “all in the family” ethic ignites further problems, litigation, and why a township social media ordinance is a necessity. To repeat, no King’s or Queens to rule. Just laws, policies, and procedures applied and applicable to everyone. 

Monday
Jun272016

All In The Family

Where to begin. This entire issue that I will attempt to explain, is somewhat convoluted to say the least. It will be much harder to explain with clarity without getting into the weeds. But, even if I don’t do a good job of explaining the intricacies, the general consensus should be more than understandable.

The parallel I am trying to make between the Saddle Brook Board of Education and the Saddle Brook Mayor/Council, is that number one, they are both reactive and not proactive in nature, and number two, certain if not all members, gravitate to their lowest common denominator and back-stab any other member for their own personal gains. These gains usually having nothing to do with the betterment of the community at large.

As stated in previous posts, I will be using two recent examples to emphasize my point. Both incidents showing that both entities are prone to a Johnny come lately work ethic. If you are one who looks at government in more of a malevolent nature, you might wonder if this is purposeful and in their better interest. Simply stated, if there is no law on the books so to speak, then dealing with certain incidents can be done by the seat of their pants with no boundaries for equity while politics can freely run amuck.

At the time of the first incident, both the BOE and the Twp. Government did not have any rules, regulation, laws, or policies in place for Social Media. After the latest incident involving the BOE, they have since adopted a Social Media Policy. To this day the mayor and council have not.

On October 5, 2015 there was an incident at Franklin School where one student verbally threatened another by stating he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot him. The next day the parent of the threatened child filed a report at the Saddle Brook Police Department. The Board of Education was not made aware of this incident by the schools administration. Some days later the father of the threatened child voiced his concern on Facebook. Being a Facebook ‘friend’ of the victim’s father, Trustee Mike Accomando saw this post and learned of the incident for the first time. Mr. Accomando then posted his comment: “As a member of the BOE I feel embarrassed and ashamed that administration has done nothing about the situation or hasn’t informed any members of the BOE about this.” [See pic 1] His reply on Facebook then caused a furious controversy as to whether it was ethical for Trustee Accomando to make any comment at all. Such a controversy in fact that the teacher’s union made a flurry of complaints and members of the board ostracized Mr. Accomando.

It can be argued whether Mr. Accomando should have held his opinion closer to his vest and not publicly spoken out on Facebook. But when reading his entire comment [See pic 1] you would be hard-pressed to find any ethical disparities. This was much more about complaints coming from people and an organization with an underlying agenda. The teachers union was in the superintendent’s pocket rallying for him at his request. It is important to note that the superintendent at the time, Dr. Richard Katz, admitted publicly at a board meeting the he made a “judgement call, a judgement that was wrong”, and further stated that “it would not be inaccurate to say nothing was done”.  

A second underlying theme was the general feeling that the Saddle Brook Police Department did not do it due diligence with its investigation. It would only be fair however to mention that the police department must adhere to state statutes regarding student’s privacy and cannot legally be completely forthcoming. But no public statements were ever made by the Chief of Police or Mayor White regarding this incident. None that would calm parent’s nerves or put them at ease to deal with any future incidents.  

But keep in mind that the players in this scenario, whether directly or indirectly, are the same players in all incidents within the scope of this post.

I am talking about each and every member of the BOE with Mr. Accomando and soon his family, being the fall guy, Mayor Robert White and his relationships with the board president, Sylvia Zottarelli, Chief of Police Robert Kugler, and Det. Capt. Vincent Laurentino.  

In one respect or another, each of the above mentioned had their parts to play for purposes of CYA, to best a perceived opponent, or simply to “keep it in the family”.

As I said in the outset of this post, these stories are convoluted, perplexing, and tedious to both explain and follow. This first post is just beginning of the beginning. I have neither explained all incidents nor tied them together as of yet. It will take some time and a few more articles to do just that. 

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