‘Tried to usurp my powers’

Among the legal actions targeting Mayor Robert Giangeruso is a lawsuit filed by the Morristown law firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman on behalf of Police Chief James O’Connor.

O’Connor, whose suit was filed July 29 in Bergen County Superior Court, alleges that on May 13, the township improperly amended its police regulations “to strip [the police chief] of his statutory right to assign subordinate officers” by mandating “that no officer holding a rank higher than lieutenant may be eligible for off-duty jobs.”

What’s more, O’Connor’s complaint said, “The Mayor has a history of interfering with the day-to-day operations of the police department. Mayor Giangeruso routinely summons [the chief’s] subordinates to his office without the Chief’s knowledge; rides in police vehicles; directs police personnel away from their duties to chauffeur him; directs police personnel to attend meetings without the Chief’s input; and attempts to direct the day-to-day duties of police personnel without notifying the Chief.”

As a particularly egregious example of what the chief characterizes as interference, the complaint said that Giangeruso directed O’Connor to assign, as a “political patronage reward,” a particular police superior to a series of jobs, first as “the narcotics guy” and to provide him an SUV-type vehicle but without the standard GPS; then as a “street crimes unit;” and then, “property maintenance” overseer – “a function not even within the purview of the police department.” Giangeruso then “promoted this [superior] to … Deputy Chief, over [O’Connor’s] objections, as a way of thanking him for his assistance in getting the Mayor re-elected” and “to help his pension.”

“The Mayor has essentially used this [superior] as his personal chauffeur for the past nine years, requiring him to be at the Mayor’s beck and call and taking him outside the accountability of the police department chain of command,” the complaint said.

– Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff