2 Kearny cops facing discipline: chief

KEARNY —

Two veteran Kearny cops are in for trouble ahead.

Police Chief John Dowie has filed disciplinary charges against them and, if found guilty, they could face dismissal from the force.

Neither the chief nor Robert Smith, the municipal business administrator, would disclose theiridentities.

At this point, Smith said, “it’s considered a personnel matter,” so unless and until there is a resolution of the matter, no names will be revealed.

On Tuesday, July 11, the mayor and Town Council authorized the hiring of Robert A. Verry, a retired South Bound Brook police chief, as hearing officer at the rate of $120 per hour with a $12,000 cap.

Dowie said no date has yet been set for the hearing.

The chief said both cops have been notified as to the charges through their attorneys, which they selected through a legal protection plan provided through their PBA membership. (The Kearny PBA is not directly paying for their legal fees.)

“We’re now in the discovery phase,” Dowie said.

If and when a formal hearing takes place, a representative of the Fairfield law firm Castano Quigley, the town’s general counsel, will present the case against the two cops and Verry will preside.

Asked what the officers are alleged to have done, Dowie would say only that the case involves “a lot of evidence missing [from the KPD property room],” including drugs.

“My I.A. [Internal Affairs] people have lived with this since last August [2016],” the chief said.

Dowie said that once the department had built what he felt was a solid case against the two officers, he referred the matter to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for what he hoped would result in a referral to a county grand jury for criminal prosecution.

Instead, he said, the prosecutor’s office returned the file to Kearny.

(The Observer reached out to that office for comment but, as of press time, none was forthcoming.)

So now, Dowie said, he’s using the only other mechanism available to him to take some kind of corrective action, i.e., the disciplinary charges.

He listed the charges as the following: Conduct unbecoming, neglect of duty, failure to perform duty, misuse of public property, standard of conduct violation and general police responsibilities violation.

If found guilty of the charges, Dowie said the officers could face a wide range of penalties, including termination.

Each of the cops has more than 20 years of service with the KPD, Dowie said.

When the initial investigation began, Dowie said, the officers were suspended with pay. That was changed to suspension without pay, after the charges were drafted, “about a month ago.”

Asked why the town was going to an outside party to hear the case rather than handle the matter internally, B.A. Smith said he felt it was important to have someone with no local connections “to provide due process.”

In his previous experience as B.A. of Washington Township in Gloucester County, Smith said hefollowed a similar policy.

Smith said he recommended the governing body hire Verry “after I spoke to the town’s labor counsel,” and two possible candidates surfaced, of whom Verry was picked because he’s “a retired police chief and very knowledgeable in this area.”

A LinkedIn account lists Verry’s current enterprise as “educational consultant – police/employee misconduct,” based at Centenary University where he is assistant professor of criminal justice, paralegal studies and political & governmental.

He’s also listed as having served as president of the NJ Internal Affairs Association since 2004.

Verry served as chief of the South Bound Brook PD until his retirement in March 2008.

Two years later, according to nj.com, Verry sued his former employers over unused sick time, claiming they were holding back part of his money as retaliation for him reporting the then-mayor to the county prosecutor for allegedly awarding a no-bid municipal contract to her brother’s firm. He ended up with a cash settlement.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.