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Category: News

Will Doran accept big pay cut?

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

HARRISON – 

Will he go or will he stay? That’s what the Harrison Board of Education is wondering about Schools Superintendent James Doran, as he faces a June 30 deadline, when his contract with the district runs out.

Last Wednesday night, the BOE noted that it had “completed and accepted the evaluation of the Superintendent” (he passed) but took no action on renewing his contract.

When asked about Doran’s status, Michael Pichowicz, assistant school business administrator, said: “We’re still in negotiations.”

BOE President Maria J. Vila said the matter was scheduled for discussion at the June 25 board meeting. Read more »

Feds target laser threat to planes

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

You can call it a limited-time offer, but it’s being offered by the federal government, not a car dealership or mortgage company.

Until Aug. 31, the FBI is offering up to $10,000 “for information that leads to the arrest of any individual who aims a laser at aircraft.”

The reward, announced earlier this month, is part of a national effort to raise public awareness and to stop what has become an “dramatically” increasing danger, not only to pilots and passengers, but also people on the ground.

Many of our Observer towns are directly under the flight path for Newark Liberty Airport. At any given time, you can look skyward and see an aircraft coming in for a landing or on its outbound route. It’s more than a little frightening to realize that someone with a handheld laser could temporarily blind a pilot. Read more »

New school borders set

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

The Kearny Board of Education voted June 16 to set in motion plans to send all seventh- and eighth-graders to a redesigned Lincoln Middle School by affirming new elementary school boundary lines for the 2014-2015 school year, taking effect in September.

And the board also cleared the way for Acting Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood to oversee implementing the plans by granting a 3-month extension through Sept. 30, pending approval by the executive county superintendent of schools, and by extending her contract through Dec. 31.

To help facilitate the district- wide elementary school reconfiguration, the board has approved the transfers of dozens of teachers, which, Kearny Education Association head Marcy Fisher estimates, will total about 120 – out of some 5 00 teachers that the KEA represents district-wide.

The Observer has asked Blood for the total number of students involved in the re-shaping of the district’s five remaining elementary schools (Lincoln now excluded) but, so far, the acting superintendent – who says she has spent many hours going over student movements from school to school with a consulting demographer – has yet to sort out a definitive answer. Read more »

Superstorm Sandy aid available

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Hudson County Long Term Recovery Committee (HCLTRC) has been set up after Superstorm Sandy to support and coordinate the area’s longterm recovery effort. It is a voluntary association of members representing many nonprofit agencies, faith-based groups and social service organizations; participants also include community advocates, relief groups and government partners.

HCLTRC assists residents of and organizations operating in Hudson County to recover from the effects of disasters, with particular attention to the needs of low-income and disabled residents and economically disadvantaged communities.

Hudson County residents who were affected by Sandy are eligible for HCLTRC’s services. They can help residents with finding out about resources, giving advice on dealing with damage, help with home repairs, and providing goods and financial assistance. Services are provided on a case-by-case basis and may vary depending on residents’ needs and the resources that are available.

Residents who are recovering from Sandy damage and are in need of additional assistance are encouraged to call 211 or 1-800-435-7555 to speak with someone regarding Sandy-related assistance

Taxes up, but so are public safety ranks

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BELLEVILLE – 

Public safety personnel and capital needs are being addressed as part of the Belleville municipal budget introduced earlier this month – but it comes with a bit of a price tag.

The $58.4 million municipal budget, of which $45.8 million is to be raised by local taxation, is only 1.84% higher than the township’s 2013 spending plan but will still – unless revised when the public hearing is held for its adoption – account for a projected increase of about $62 on the “average” house assessed at $238,200, according to Township Manager Kevin Esposito.

How property owners’ tax bills will be impacted by local school costs and the local share of the Essex County budget remains to be seen but if projections of a $2.5 million Board of Education deficit are accurate, that alone could drive up taxes by more than $200 on the average homeowner, Esposito said.

On the municipal side of the ledger, Esposito said a $300,000 spike in the cost of snow removal this past winter, when a cumulative total of 70 inches fell in the area, along with an uptick in employee health insurance premiums, helped push spending up.

The 2015 budget is designed to make room for 16 new police officers, of whom four are now undergoing training in the Police Academy and the township expects to send the other 12 to the Academy by September, according to Esposito.

Seven additional firefighters are also being added to the Fire Department roster, thanks to a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant that pays for salaries and benefits for two years.

With the new cops, the township will be “a few officers shy” of the ordinance strength called for by the Police Department’s Table of Organization and the Fire Department will also fall short of its T.O., but at least it’s taking steps to try and build up its public safety capability under fiscal restraints, Esposito said.

The township recently secured a 2014 E1 HP 100-foot aerial ladder fire truck with a 2,000-gallon-per minute pump, manufactured in Ocala, Fla., and acquired for $880,000 through a Houston/Galveston purchasing cooperative from a New Jersey vendor, Absolute Fire Protection, of South Plainfield. It will replace a 1992 rig.

The Fire Department also got a new ambulance, a 2014 Freightliner with a 170-inch box, built by PL Custom, of Manasquan, and acquired from N.J. Emergency Vehicles, a division of PL Custom, at a cost of $218,000 through the same purchasing cooperative. The department’s 2007 ambulance, with 114,000 miles logged, will become a backup vehicle for now.

Both new vehicles come equipped with a diesel exhaust fluid system.

“We are in the process of looking at our capital needs for 2015 and, specifically, replacing our aging pickup trucks which are used all seasons and some of which date from 1992,” Esposito said.

Additionally, he said, “At our July 1 Township Council meeting, we will be introducing a bond ordinance for our annual road improvement program, into which we hope to incorporate funds for the completion of the new Friendly House recreation center. At that time, we’ll make a decision on what equipment we want to purchase.”

– Ron Leir 

Guilty plea in massive scam

A Lyndhurst man, owner of a Jersey City jewelry store, pleaded guilty last week to a role in what authorities termed one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department.

According to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, 51-year-old Vinod Dadlani used his shop, Tanishq Jewels, in a scam in which the conspirators fabricated more than 7,000 identities and obtained tens of thousands of credit cards. The result: over $200 million in confirmed losses to businesses and banks.

Dadlani, indicted last October, pleaded guilty June 18 in Federal Court in Trenton to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gain/loss caused by the offense. He is reportedly the 17th conspirator to admit guilt.

According to authorities, the scheme involved a process in which the defendants would create a false identity and a fraudulent credit profile with the major credit bureaus and then doctor the credit reports to pump up their spending/ borrowing power.

“They then borrowed or spent as much as they could, based on the phony credit history, but did not repay the debts,” Fishman’s office said.

Fishman’s office said Dadlani admitted that other conspirators came to his store, where he allowed them to swipe cards he knew did not legitimately belong to them. Dadlani would then split the proceeds of the phony transactions with them.

Tanishq Jewels was one of many complicit businesses involved in the scam, which reportedly operated from 2003 until early 2013.

“The scope of the criminal fraud enterprise required Dadlani’s conspirators to construct an elaborate network of false identities,” a statement from Fishman noted. “Across the country, the conspirators maintained more than 1,800 ‘drop addresses,’ including houses, apartments and post office boxes, which they used as the mailing addresses for the false identities.”

Dadlani’s sentencing is scheduled Sept. 24 before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton.

– Karen Zautyk

In KPD database, they’re #busted

KEARNY – 

Following a nearly threemonth investigation, Kearny police have arrested two suspects in connection with the theft of 158 computers from a local business. Some of the stolen Panasonic Toughbooks, with a total value of $286,000, later showed up for sale on the internet, KPD Chief John Dowie told The Observer.

The equipment was reported missing from a South Kearny company March 17. After the initial report was filed by Officer Jack Corbett, the case was turned over to Det. Ray Lopez, who started putting together the pieces of a complicated puzzle, Dowie said.

During the investigation, the Toughbooks started turning up on sites such as eBay, offered for sale by a “Jersey Joe,” police said. Lopez reportedly also tracked 17 of the computers to North Carolina and worked with the NYPD to gather information. Eventually, the detective narrowed his focus to two employees of the company that had been hit.

On June 9, suspect Ricardo Guzman, 37, of Elizabeth, turned himself in at KPD headquarters, police reported. Lopez and Det. Sgt. John View arrested the second alleged thief, James Steen, 43, of Hackettstown, on June 12 at the South Kearny business.

Both men have been charged with theft and conspiracy.

Charges are pending against at least two other individuals, Dowie said

 – Karen Zautyk 

KHS graduation day marred by mishap

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KEARNY –

Two Kearny teenagers were shaken up after their vehicle was involved in an accident on Kearny Ave. this past Friday afternoon, police said.

The accident, which occurred near the Locust Ave. intersection, involved two cars, one of which was rear-ended, according to police, who detoured traffic away from the location.

Police said the two teens – who, according to friends at the scene, were Kearny High seniors – were taken by Kearny EMS ambulance to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville for evaluation.

The teens’ car was towed while the owner of the second car drove that vehicle away, police said. An engine crew from the Kearny Fire Department responded to hose down the street.

The accident happened only a few hours before the scheduled Kearny High School graduation ceremony and, in what has become an annual custom, many Kearny High seniors typically ride up and down Kearny Ave., the main street in town, honking their horns and shouting greetings as they go. Whether this was the case in Friday’s incident, police couldn’t confirm.

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One student on Kearny Ave. said he didn’t see the accident but sometimes, he said, the seniors who ride along the avenue “are honking their horns and shouting out the windows and they don’t pay attention to traffic.”

On Friday, police said they didn’t know the extent of any injuries the teens may have suffered but Kearny High Principal Al Gilson, reached over the weekend, said the students “did attend graduation and we’re really happy about that.”

Mayor Alberto Santos said the mishap brought to mind an incident that, he said, happened on a high school graduation day in 2008 in which a student “surfing” on a pickup truck fell from the vehicle and was killed.

When informed about the “tradition,” Gilson – who is completing his first year in the Kearny school district – said he was unaware of the history but it was “something I’m going to address with the [acting] superintendent (Patricia Blood).”

 – Ron Leir 

Longtime coach promoted in police ranks

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

EAST NEWARK – 

He’s been a longtime West Hudson youth coach, a Hometown Hero, a ground zero volunteer. And now, he’s known as Police Sgt. Michael J. O’Donnell, having been installed in that rank by East Newark’s governing body on June 11.

O’Donnell, 43, had been serving as a police superior in an acting capacity, since Oct. 9, 2013, and now that he’s passed his probationary period, he’s been made permanent in the position.

Aside from the chief, O’Donnell is the only other superior officer in the borough’s small Police Department.

“He’s a hard worker, great with kids and good with people,” said his boss, Police Chief Anthony Monteiro. “In a community our size, a sergeant has a lot more responsibilities than in the larger departments, whether it’s making out reports or calling a judge for bail in the middle of the night. In this town, he is it.”

A 1989 Kearny High School graduate, O’Donnell served in the U.S. Navy about three and a half years as a non-combat veteran, mostly in Japan, completing with an E-3 pay grade.

He spent seven years as a corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections, assigned to East Jersey State Prison, Rahway.

It was during that period that O’Donnell volunteered with many other law enforcement agents in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, for which the DOC honored him with an award for exceptional conduct. Nine years ago, O’Donnell successfully applied for a position as an officer with the East Newark Police Department and he’s never looked back. This is his sixth year running the Police Department’s DARE program, which makes kids aware of the dangers of substance abuse, in partnership with the borough Public School.

O’Donnell and Monteiro both received citations from Kearny Police Chief John Dowie for their arrest of four suspects wanted in connection with the armed robbery of an Exxon service station on Passaic Ave. on Feb. 28, 2007.

In 2008, O’Donnell was named a Hometown Hero in recognition of his police work and dedication to local youths.

For some time, he’s been an active supporter of area youth recreation programs as a coach and umpire. “I ran the Pop Warner program in Harrison for 16 years and I just got hired by the Harrison Board of Education as an assistant high school football coach,” O’Donnell said.

In 2005 the United Irish Association of West Hudson selected O’Donnell as deputy parade marshal for its annual St. Patrick’s Parade.

O’Donnell and his wife, the former Donna Gilmore, have four daughters – Christina, 23, who is graduating from Kean University; Briana, 20, completing her second year at Bergen County Community College; Amber, 16, a Harrison High School junior; and Haley, 11, a fifth-grader at East Newark Public School – and a son, Michael, 15, a Harrison High freshman.

A special day for N. Arlington child

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NORTH ARLINGTON –

A 10-year-old borough lad was the center of attention recently when he was selected “Chief for the Day” by the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association in cooperation with Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino.

Now in its third year, the program seeks to recognize youngsters with special needs from around the county and make them feel good about themselves in their home communities.

On June 6, with the help of input from the borough Board of Education and the child study team at Washington School, fifth-grader Miguel Vega, a special needs youngster, was ceremonially sworn in as North Arlington’s chief by Mayor Peter Massa at Borough Hall and met borough employees.

Then, Miguel was taken to the borough Police Department where he “took over,” sitting in the private office of Chief Louis Ghione, and, after being outfitted with his own special police uniform, with the chief’s guidance, delivered “orders of the day” to the rank and file and “signed off” on purchase orders and sorted through official police reports.

Miguel was also able to phone his dad, a truck driver on the road, and identified himself as “Chief Mike.”

During an “inspection” of the police motor pool, Miguel found out what it felt like to sit on a police motorcycle and inside a patrol car where he activated the lights and siren.

Next stop for Miguel was the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack where he was introduced to, and mingled with, some 35 of his peers from around the county who were also honored that day.

Photos courtesy North Arlington PD TOP: Miguel and the chief share time in Ghione’s office. BOTTOM: Miguel tries out a police motorcycle on his special day.

Photos courtesy North Arlington PD
TOP: Miguel and the chief share time in Ghione’s office. BOTTOM: Miguel tries out a police motorcycle on his special day.

 

He was photographed with Chief Ghione on the courthouse steps and that picture was incorporated into a framed plaque that the borough presented him as a souvenir of his special day. As the culminating event for the day, Miguel and his mother Lilia were given a motorcycle police escort to the Empire Club in Little Ferry for a luncheon.

Johnston Communications, a North Arlington firm that does a lot of charitable work, paid for Miguel’s uniform and plaque and the meals for Miguel and his mom, according to Ghione.

“This is our third year participating in the program and each time it’s more rewarding for me because we’re focused on what’s important – the people in this community,” the chief said.

 – Ron Leir