Friday, February 26, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Meeting will address issues of concern in 3rd Ward.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Rulings let critial complaints against Hackensack police chief go forward
Friday, February 12, 2010
BY MARK J. BONAMO
In a series of opinions filed on Feb. 2 by two federal judges in Newark, the First Amendment complaints lodged by numerous current and former Hackensack police officers in two separate lawsuits filed against Chief Charles "Ken" Zisa and the City of Hackensack were allowed to advance to trial. Complaints of civil racketeering also were allowed to proceed.
The four opinions handed down by U.S. District Court Judges Stanley R. Chesler and William J. Martini permitted the primary allegations of the plaintiffs, which focus on their constitutional right to free speech and freedom of association, to proceed in the two separate lawsuits. One of the lawsuits in question was filed by seven current and former police officers against Chief Zisa, other members of the police department and City Attorney Joseph Zisa; Officers Anthony Ferraioli and Aldrin Lamboy filed the other suit against the chief and the city.
Both lawsuits largely stem from the June 2008 Policemen’s Benevolent Association election for union delegate. The allegations in the lawsuits claim that police officers were retaliated against for failing to support the chief’s political candidacies and those that he supported in this and other elections by means of demotion and reassignment to punitive beats. The plaintiffs also allege that they experienced a pattern of extortion from Zisa and other police officers regarding political donations for these candidacies.
These lawsuits represent two out of the five filed against the chief and the city since June 2009 that involve a total of 15 plaintiffs. The suits, which have been filed in federal and state court, all allege that Chief Zisa, who served as a state assemblyman from 1994 to 2002, misused his authority to sway the outcome of local, state and police union elections. The chief has strongly denied these allegations.
Judges dismiss some claims; others stick
The judges dismissed some of the claims in the lawsuits against Chief Zisa. Judge Chesler dismissed six of the 19 counts in the suit filed by Ferraioli and Lamboy, and Judge Martini dismissed four counts, including state racketeering counts, in the other suit filed by seven current and former police officers.
Martini also dismissed one of two counts against Capt. Thomas Salcedo and all counts against Detective Phil Carroll. Salcedo offered no comment, while Carroll could not be reached immediately for comment.
However, Martini did allow other critical claims to go forward, including those alleging civil rights violations and the federal racketeering claim made by Hackensack police officer Scott Sybel, who maintains that he was coerced into a business partnership with Chief Zisa to build homes but never received any compensation from the partnership.
In his ruling, Chesler also allowed the primary claim of First Amendment abuses to advance and did not dismiss the plaintiff’s allegations that they were retaliated against for using their right to free speech and freedom of association.
"The amended complaint plausibly pleads that by being subjected to pressure to cast their vote for a particular candidate and later retaliation for failing to bend to that pressure, plaintiffs faced a significant impediment to participation in union-related activity," Chesler wrote. "Assuming the truth of plaintiffs’ allegations, the amended complaint portrays a scenario in which the public employer effectively attempted to control the labor union leadership."
Contrasting views of judges’ opinions
Chief Zisa had an optimistic viewpoint about the judge’s rulings.
"I’m very pleased that before the city has even answered the complaints, the judges have decided to dismiss numerous claims," he said.
City Attorney Zisa, the chief’s cousin, also had a positive outlook regarding the opinions.
"We anticipate more opinions coming out," he said. "We believe that they will follow the same pattern as these opinions, where they are dismissing numerous counts on these complaints."
At a city council meeting later on Feb. 2, the city attorney emphasized his views about the opinions.
"This is a very good day for the City of Hackensack," he said.
Richard Malagiere, who is acting as lead counsel for the city and as Zisa’s attorney in these lawsuits, indicated that after the discovery process, the lawsuits could progress in his client’s favor with regard to the First Amendment allegations.
"I don’t believe that all of [the First Amendment claims] will be around," Malagiere said. "I believe that we will be able to effectively get some of them dismissed on summary judgment."
Conversely, Mark Frost, a Philadelphia-based attorney who is representing 12 of the 15 officers with pending lawsuits against the chief and the city, including the lawsuit in which Judge Martini rendered a ruling on Feb.2, was encouraged by the opinions handed down by the federal judges.
"I’m pleased with the judges’ rulings in allowing the main claims to go forward," Frost said. "Chief Zisa’s acts of retaliation against my clients were clearly in violation of their First Amendment rights. These are very serious claims and we are going forward with all of them. Any assertion that these are frivolous allegations is one of false bravado."
Hackensack councilman says PD needs outside investigation
Friday, February 12, 2010
BY MARK J. BONAMO
2 Comments John Labrosse has been a mechanic in the plant operations department of Hackensack University Medical Center for almost seven years. He has held a Hackensack City Council seat only since July of last year. But Labrosse is now shifting uneasily in that seat and distancing himself from the other four council members. In light of the spate of lawsuits filed against Hackensack Police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisa and the City of Hackensack since June, Labrosse believes that the machinery of local government may be on the verge of a breakdown.
"We’ve been sitting here for months speaking about the Police Department and its issues. I think we need to take a step back and have somebody come in and take a look at it," said Labrosse at the Feb. 2 city council meeting. "We should do it out of fairness to the taxpayers more than anything else. This isn’t a matter of guilt, who’s right or who’s wrong, who’s filing lawsuits or who’s not. This is a problem that is spiraling out of control, and we don’t know where it’s going. It’s a scary thing. To be quite honest, with the apathy in this town and all of the citizens that aren’t aware of what’s going on, people are going to wake up and it’s going to hit them in the head one day."
Labrosse’s comments came in the wake of the rulings made the same day by two federal judges in separate lawsuits that allowed the most serious allegations made by current and retired Hackensack police officers to proceed to trial, including alleged First Amendment violations and civil racketeering accusations.
Contending views of court rulings clash at council meeting
The lawsuits in question are two out of the five filed against the chief and the city, involving a total of 15 plaintiffs. The allegations in the lawsuits center on claims that police officers were retaliated against for failing to support the chief’s political candidacies and those that he supported and experienced a pattern of extortion regarding political donations for these candidacies.
While the First Amendment claims were permitted to advance to trial, other claims were dismissed by the judges. For example, in the ruling issued by U.S. District Judge William J. Martini, four counts, including state racketeering counts, were dismissed in a suit filed by seven current and former police officers against Zisa, other members of the police department and City Attorney Joseph Zisa.
However, Martini did allow other critical claims to go forward, including civil rights violations and a federal racketeering claim made by Hackensack police officer Scott Sybel, who maintains that he was coerced into a business partnership with Chief Zisa to build homes but never received any compensation from the partnership.
Still, City Attorney Zisa publicly expressed a positive view of the day’s events at the Feb. 2 council meeting.
"This is a very good day for the City of Hackensack," said the city attorney, who is the chief’s cousin. "We’re very happy with the judge’s decision."
Some members of the public who spoke out at the meeting countered the city attorney’s viewpoint.
"He’s trying to make a rosy picture out of a very dull picture," said Emil Canestrino. "It’s not good news."
"We have to ask for an independent review, somebody outside of Hackensack, to look at what is actually going on here," added resident Regina DiPasqua.
Labrosse presses on with call for outside intervention
At times during the heated debate in recent months over the future of the Police Department, some residents have called for radical surgery on Hackensack’s body politic, including calls for Chief Zisa to resign, an official state Attorney General investigation of the Police Department, even a state takeover of the approximately 100-member police force. But for now, all Labrosse is asking for is some sort of look-see into the current state of affairs at police headquarters on State Street.
"I’m not asking for people to step down," said Labrosse at the council meeting. "The chief has said [that these type of municipal lawsuits] are a trend in New Jersey. I’ve never seen a trend where there has been this many lawsuits against the city and its police department. I’m not comfortable with it, and I think that we need someone to come in and look at it," concluded Labrosse to applause.
In a later interview, Labrosse reiterated a major reason why he felt that he had to speak out at the council meeting.
"Apathy is the death of democracy," Labrosse said. "It’s just that simple."
who’s not. This is a problem that is spiraling out of control, and we don’t know where it’s going. It’s a scary thing. To be quite honest, with the apathy in this town and all of the citizens that aren’t aware of what’s going on, people are going to wake up and it’s going to hit them in the head one day."
ONE ONLINE TODAY
Probe of Hackensack police chief is urged
Friday, February 12, 2010
Last updated: Saturday February 13, 2010, 3:13 PM
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — The Bergen County Prosecutor has been asked to launch an investigation of the police chief, an attorney who represents a city police officer in his disciplinary hearing, said Friday.
Patrick Toscano, attorney for Police Officer Anthony Ferraioli, said the county office may be looking into claims of official misconduct and insurance fraud. Toscano made the announcement minutes after testimony ended in Ferraioli’s disciplinary hearing. He said a city attorney sent a letter to Prosecutor John Molinelli, which prompted him to send one to the prosecutor as well.
“My office was contacted this week telling us that the BCPO wants to look into I believe into these allegations,” said Patrick Toscano, who represents other city police officers with pending disciplinary charges. “I want to make several of my clients available to them for the investigation.”
Molinelli said Toscano and the attorneys representing the city in the administrative hearing have reached out to him during the proceedings. He declined to talk about the information contained in the letters sent in recent weeks, but said he did tell someone in his office to reach out to Toscano after he received the attorney’s latest letter.
“I won’t disclose whether we are conducting an investigation or not, he said. “We will decide what or if any action needs to be taken.”
Police Chief Ken Zisa said Toscano’s latest claims have nothing to do with the Ferraioli case, and declined to talk about them further.
“How many things has he accused me of throughout this thing,” he said. “He has accused me of countless acts, and I’m not going to discuss any of them.”
Ferraioli, his wife and William Wilks, an investigator hired by Toscano, were the last witnesses to testify at the hearing. Ferraioli, a 21-year veteran, is accused of posing as an internal affairs captain in an online community forum and posting comments. He is also charged with lying about the incident when questioned by internal affairs officers. If found guilty, Ferraioli, whose wife has testified that she authored the postings, could lose his job.
Wilks, a retired Verona police chief, spoke at length about violations to state attorney general guidelines, which he says were committed during the investigation. He said the city officers made several missteps: they never informed Ferraioli in writing that he was the target of an internal affairs investigation, they conducted an improper seizure and search of the computer in the officer’s home and the evidence was not handled properly.
“One of the things that the AG guidelines directs is that the investigation is supposed to be thorough and objective, and that certainly is not the case here,” he testified Friday.
After the hearing, Zisa defended the way the probe was conducted, saying that Wilks’ testimony reflected inaccuracies and contradictions. He also added that the rights offered to officers who are the subject of an administrative hearing are very different from those given in criminal proceedings.
“Legislatively and judicially it has been recognized throughout the years that police officers do not have the same rights administratively as they do criminally,” Zisa said. “There is a reason for that; it’s because you need to maintain order and discipline at its highest level.”
Under questioning from Toscano, Ferraioli briefly testified that he bought the computer for his wife, Dawn Fray, and that he never used the internal affairs captain’s name to post on the Internet. Philip George, the city’s attorney, did not cross examine him.
City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono, who acted as the hearing officer, asked that written summations be submitted to his office on March 15. He ordered written rebuttals be sent two weeks later, after which he said he would render a decision.
CAN'T WAIT TO READ SUNDAY'S PAPER
is this beyond ridiculous or what?
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
THE HOST SITE - blogger.com - IS HAVING TECHNICAL PROBLEMS WITH VIDEO PLAY BACK ON ITS ENTIRE SITE, NOT JUST THIS BLOG. TRY FAST FORWARD THEN PLAY IF YOU CANNOT ACCESS THE VIDEO. THEY SAY THEY HAVE FIXED IT, BUT THESE VIDEOS ARE NOT ALWAYS WORKING
ALSO POSTED ON YOUTUBE tagged Hackensack City Council
Sorry some of this may be out of order and/or duplicate - got distracted and lost track of uploads.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
And right after I posted this I tried again and video worked. Keep trying. Sorry, it's beyond our control. If you use the arrow below the video to fast forward buffering starts, then press play arrow and video should start. Sorry - hope this gets fixed soon.