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New high school VP named

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KEARNY –

A 13-year school employee has been promoted to vice principal assigned to Kearny High School.

Paul Measso, 37, was appointed to his new job Oct. 20 at an annual salary of $128,163 (pro-rated), pending receipt of his principal certificate of eligibility from Trenton. He completed a master’s degree in education leadership at St. Peter’s College.

Measso will be filling one of two vice principal slots left vacant this school year with the retirement of Michael Barbone and the transfer of Patrick Ragnoni to Lincoln Middle School. William Gaydos, formerly science department chairman, is filling the other slot. A third vice principal John Millar is also athletic director.

Until he’s cleared to make the move, Measso will continue working as a high school guidance counselor, a job he’s performed for the last eight years.

Read more »

Lottery for senior apts. next month

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON –

The town’s first affordable residence for senior citizens at 774 Harrison Ave. is getting ever closer to reality.

As construction of the 15-unit building nears completion, the sponsor, Domus Corp., the housing arm of Catholic Charities of Newark, has begun the process of soliciting applications from prospective tenants.

John Westervelt, CEO of Catholic Charities and Domus president, said that a lottery system will be used to make the final selections from the applicant pool which, judging from interest shown, could reach “over 100.”

To be eligible for consideration, an applicant must be age 62 or older and must meet U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) income limits.

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Heroin/gun rap for felon

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KPD photos Top: Gilberto Rivera and the treasure trove cops say they found in his car. Bottom: That’s not a dashboard console (l,), it’s a place to stash gun and dope.

KPD photos
Top: Gilberto Rivera and the treasure trove cops say they found in his car. Bottom: That’s not a dashboard console (l,), it’s a place to stash gun and dope.

 

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

When Kearny Vice Squad detectives busted a Newark man for drug possession/distribution Oct. 17 on Maple St., they reported recovering 135 folds of heroin. While the suspect was languishing in the Hudson County Jail on $40,000 bail, the KPD obtained a search warrant for his impounded car. The result? A reported 365 additional folds — for a total of 500 — plus a fully-loaded .357 Magnum.

The accused, Gilberto Rivera, 32, is now being held on an added $150,000 bail, cash only, no 10% option. Authorities said he has a record of 11 prior arrests — including charges of kidnapping, drug distribution and gun possession — and eight felony convictions.

Rivera’s latest encounter with law began at 2 p.m., Oct. 17, when KPD Vice observed what appeared to be a hand-to- hand drug transaction in a 2006 Chevy Impala he had been driving on Maple St. near Liberty St.

The buyer, described as a “known drug violator,” was identified as Carol Enright, 37, of Kearny, who reportedly discarded several folds of suspected heroin within the car as the officers approached.

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Clerk for Kearny doc stole 500G

NEWARK –

A woman who had worked as a receptionist at a Kearny medical office pleaded guilty last week to embezzling nearly a half-million dollars from her employer, as well as using fraudulent credit cards to make more than $200,000 in personal purchases, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Gwendolyn Muller, 53, faces up to 25 years in prison when she is sentenced in February.

Muller was said to be a former resident of Kearny. Authorities revealed neither her current address nor the identity of the medical practice where she had been employed.

She pleaded guilty Oct. 20 before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court to one count each of embezzlement, credit card fraud and tax evasion.

According to prosecutors, Muller worked for a Kearny physician from 2007 through 2011, during which time she used her position to obtain and cash more than $446,000 in checks that had been paid to the medical practice by patients’ insurance companies.

Court documents noted that, as the receptionist, she handled the mail and had unsupervised access to the office computer system, which she used to conceal the embezzlement.

In addition, she fraudulently obtained 10 credit cards in the name of a principal of the practice and used these to charge at least $218,000 in goods and personal services. Muller also admitted to filing a false tax return to evade the payment of taxes on the illegally obtained income.

The embezzlement and credit card counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison; the tax count, five years in prison.

All three counts are also punishable by a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss or gain caused by the offense.

Under terms of the plea agreement, Muller is required to forfeit $556,000 to the United States.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

– Karen Zautyk 

Thoughts & Views: Ebola: More questions than answers

It’s not often that I agree with Chris Christie, but on the issue of mandatory isolation for certain persons returning to the U.S. from Ebola-afflicted countries, he is 1,000% correct. Or maybe I should say, was correct.

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the White House was “pushing” Christie and N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo “to reverse their decision ordering all medical workers returning from West Africa who had contact with Ebola patients to be quarantined” for 21 days.

On Monday morning came word that that the nurse quarantined at UMDNJ in Newark, who was raising a stink and threatening a lawsuit, would be released. As of press time, details were sparse, so I do not know if Christie himself had a change of heart.

At the same time, in New York, Cuomo was said to be “revising” the quarantine rule there.

So much for steadfastness.

Like everything else in the Ebola situation, uncertainty and confusion dominate.

Thus far, the Obama administration, and the Centers for Disease Control, appear to be completely clueless about how to manage, limit, prevent, whatever, the potential dangers of this disease to the American public.

Consider, for instance, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden’s statement during a press briefing that it was not possible to catch Ebola from sitting next to an infected person on a bus, but that such infected persons should avoid public transportation because they could spread the disease there.

Huh?

The next day, another CDC spokesperson clarified (if that’s the right word) that it was “not impossible” to contract Ebola on a bus.

For weeks, the public has been assured that to contract Ebola, one must come into contact with a sick person’s “bodily fluids.” According to the CDC’s website, these include “but [are] not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen.”

The same site says “Ebola is not spread through the air . . .”

Okay. But what about the mucus/phlegm from a sneeze or a cough? The reason we are supposed to cover our noses and mouths when sneezing/ coughing is because the germs can spread a fair distance. Through the air. Isn’t mucus a bodily fluid? Maybe I missed it, but have these questions been addressed?

Let me state that I in no way wish to promote some sort of Ebola panic, which some news reports appear to be flirting with. We are far from a pandemic’s threatening our shores. But I’d like to keep it that way.

My point is that we simply do not know, or have not been told, enough.

Remember the adage “Better safe than sorry”?

A 21-day mandatory quarantine, be it in an American hospital or in one’s own home, is neither cruel and unusual punishment nor a violation of one’s civil rights. I would think that any of these health-care workers returning from West Africa would gladly agree to a quarantine, or do they care less about the health of Americans than they do about others’?

Yes, they are heroes for the risks they have taken to help the stricken. But I’d think a hero wouldn’t mind 21 days – which isn’t much time at all – in a secure environment. It’s not like they’re being sent to Guantanamo.

As we have seen, voluntary isolation hasn’t worked. As Cuomo commented last week: “’Voluntary quarantine’? No. That’s almost an oxymoron to me.”

But that was last week.

Word has come that Florida and Illinois have now instituted mandatory quarantine rules.

Let’s see how long those last.

– Karen Zautyk 

CLARIFICATION

Last week’s opinion column “Gov’t stumbles threat to Republic?” was written by Ron Leir. His name was inadvertently omitted from the print edition of the paper.

WE’VE GOT MAIL

THANK YOU

To the editor: 

Queen of Peace Rosary Society Annual Tricky Tray met with success and much enjoyment.

The Rosary Society and Tricky Tray Coordinators would like to thank all the merchants and people of the community for their generosity and support.

Mary Ann Fazioli 

North Arlington  

THANK YOU, TOO

To the editor: 

On behalf of the Lyndhurst Music Association, we would like to thank the American Legion Post 139 for their help in planning and hosting the Lyndhurst Town Wide Yard Sale on Saturday, Sept. 27. With their support, we raised $1,690 to help restore the auditorium at Lyndhurst High School. Thank you to the American Legion Post 139, the Township of Lyndhurst and the families who participated in this worthwhile project.

Linda Stevens 

Lyndhurst Music Association 

Borough voters getting school question

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

EAST NEWARK – 

A court ruling has cleared the way – over objections by Harrison – for a Nov. 4 nonbinding referendum asking borough voters, “Should East Newark high school students be sent to Kearny High School instead of Harrison High School?”

Harrison Board of Education argued that the question shouldn’t go on the ballot because the proposal came, not from the borough school board, but from the municipality, which, Harrison said, has no statutory authority to pitch such a school-related issue.

But Hudson County Assignment Judge Peter Bariso Jr., in an Oct. 20 opinion, found that the potential shifting of students from Harrison to Kearny can have local tax ramifications borne by the East Newark Board of School Estimate, whose members represent both the borough school board and municipality.

For that reason, the court ruled, “East Newark has the authority not only to take action on the sending receiving relationship within the scope of its budgetary responsibilities but also to proffer the referendum related to it.”

Read more »

Teenager Tayla Grace prepares for big time in music world

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Sometimes, when 17-yearolds sing, it’s nice — but there’s only so much of it you can take. In the case of Tayla Grace, her voice is so strong, so powerful, so professional, one can’t help but wonder just how soon it will be before she makes it big in the music industry.

One can only imagine that it won’t be too long before her songs are on the radio — or she’s singing on “American Idol.”

And it’s all because she’s been involved in the arts since she was a young girl. And it’s all come full circle with her first-ever album.

The Observer was introduced to Grace last week at a groundbreaking ceremony in Harrison.

The 17-year-old high school senior says it was the choir she was involved with from an early age until she turned 15 that allowed her to realize she’s extremely talented musically.

Read more »

Don’t expect cops at grid games

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

On Saturday, Oct. 17, the normal presence of local bluecoats to provide security for Kearny High football games was missing. Nor were they available for the Kearny High girls soccer tourney Oct. 19 at Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City.

And they will likely be missing for the balance of the season – and for all other Kearny school-related events – because the Kearny Board of Education is unwilling to pay the going hourly rate.

Provisional Superintendent of Schools Patricia Blood told The Observer last week that the amount of money now sought by the police for off-duty work simply wasn’t anticipated in the district’s budget when it was adopted in April.

Blood said the district brought in additional school security personnel to cover for the absent cops at the weekend games, “which, by the way, were incident-free,” she added.

Off-duty pay for Kearny police officers is set by the labor contract between the town and the police unions and the current contract calls for cops to be compensated for that work at the rate of $55 per hour, except for school-related jobs which are to be compensated at $40 an hour.

That $40-an-hour rate has been in place since September 2012. Before that, it was $25 an hour.

However, according to Blood, this September, the district was contacted by Sgt. John Manley, on behalf of the Police Department, “who told us they were planning to raise the [school] rates.”

To that end, the mayor and Town Council were asked to introduce an ordinance to increase the rate from $40 to $55 an hour at their Oct. 14 meeting, which they did but the new rate cannot go into effect until it is adopted at a public hearing that was tentatively scheduled for Oct. 29.

There were no plans by the district to send anyone to the meeting to oppose the proposed rate hike. Instead, Blood said, the district is “working on an alternate [security] plan, including the possibility of bringing on more teachers [to supplement school security]. They’re familiar with our students who generally respond positively to them and, between the two [security and teachers], we should be able to ensure a safe environment.”

Under their union contract, teachers are entitled to $36 an hour for overtime work while security personnel get less, so the district will likely be able to afford such a deployment scenario, she said.

District records supplied by School Business Administrator/ Board Secretary Michael DeVita show that the district spent $21,000 for “police charges” in 2010-2011, $20,970 in 2011-2012, $19,980 in 2012- 2013, $25,360 in 2013-2014 and $11,715 through fall 2014.

For many districts comparable in size to Kearny, it’s quite common to get by with one person in uniform and several staff to cover an event, Blood added.

Asked his take on the cops’ school rate predicament, Police Chief John Dowie said: “It’s a matter of being competitive” with what the private security market will bear. And, he said, there are always plenty of off-duty jobs available, “so I can assure the Board of Education they’re not being snubbed.”

On a typical day, Dowie said, “I have six contractors, be it ShopRite, Walmart, Fletcher Creamer, Public Service, looking to get police employees. Besides that, I have eight men assigned to Pulaski Skyway details between 6 a.m. and midnight.

“Plus, every week it seems, there’s some kind of public event – whether it’s a 5k run or a religious procession or July 4th fireworks – those posts have to be manned,” he added.

In Kearny, Dowie said, cops “have always worked Board of Education details for less [money]” in deference to giving back to local schools, but “if they can get a job paying more, why not?”

Generally, he said, Board of Education off-duty jobs “are designated to one individual but if that individual doesn’t want the job, you can’t order a guy to do it.” Such assignments are voluntary, he added.

And even if no uniformed personnel are on site for a schoolrelated event, “we certainly have patrols in area, if they need assistance,” the chief said. Plus, he added, even with the Police Department’s ranks “stretched too thin,” the department “still has a Cops in School program in place every day.”

Kearny High PTA President Irene Olawski couldn’t readily be reached for her assessment of the students’ safety situation.