Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Police Officers' Lawsuit against the Township and the Chief of Police.


The Police Officers' Lawsuit….

                As you all know, I have made efforts to connect with residents through social media.  So you know me and I get to know you…a little better.  I often post about positive things happening in town to let you know that the good people who work for the municipality are doing good work.  By establishing a presence on social media, I believe it would be hypocritical of me to now not comment on what many of you have read in the Trentonian today.  Given that it is a pending lawsuit, there are things I cannot say or should not say, but I will share my thoughts and opinions with you, as much as I can, because you may want to know what I think, and Chief Caloiaro deserves a fair representation of the facts and circumstances to be made public. 

                First and foremost, I appreciate and have nothing but respect for all of you that have the wisdom and understanding to not form an opinion based upon allegations.  People tend to think that a lawsuit somehow has merit because it exists.  It doesn’t.  For the cost of $400, ANYONE and I mean ANYONE can (and often do) file a law suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey.  The Clerk of the Court simply stamps the complaint “FILED” with absolutely no review of the truthfulness or accuracy of the allegations contained in it.  So please do not be impressed that a civil action exists.  Nor be impressed that the Trentonian made it a front page article.

                The Trentonian article stated that the PBA Local 119 and the Township have been in negotiations for a new contract.  That is true.  During the negotiation period the PBA fired its attorney and hired another one.  This attorney, as facts will have it, is the very same attorney that prepared and filed this lawsuit against the Township on behalf of PBA members.  The very same.

                What many in the public don’t know is that our Police Department is very different than almost all others because we have 2 active police unions, the PBA and the FOP.  Recently, the PBA took over control of the bargaining power on behalf of the rank and file membership but the FOP remains the bargaining unit for the Superior officers of our Police Department.  Let that settle in for a moment….  Think about the type of environment this could and does create.  Complaints are frequently filed against each other that require the Mercer County Prosecutor to investigate and handle since these complaints can’t be handled within the department for obvious reasons.  There are more than a few currently being handled at this time.

                The law in the State of New Jersey is that it is illegal for police officers to strike.  It’s a good law for good reasons.  But the consequence to this law is that when rank and file membership become unhappy about how things are handled by the superior officers or, let’s say, a manager that does not offer them the money they want in their new contract, what they always have at their discretion is to put their uniform on, wear the badge, attend roll call…and then sit in their patrol cars all day and not do proactive traffic enforcement.  Traffic enforcement that is designed NOT to create revenue but to keep our streets safe. Safe from speeders, erratic drivers, drunk drivers.  (How many of you have taken the time out of your day to call me to complain about speeders down your streets and never seeing a police car anywhere?)  But by coming to work each day, a profession that required them to put their hand on a bible (often held by a family member) to swear an oath to protect and to serve, they get paid….from taxpayer money.  

                If you read about quotas in the newspaper.  That is accurate.  The Attorney General for the State of New Jersey issued long ago that requiring police officers to meet quotas is illegal.  It’s a good law.  It makes sense.  But how do you supervise or manage a police officers that come to work each day, sit in their patrol car and do no traffic enforcement while cars speed by, people unsafely hold cell phones, or drivers drive drunk?  If you mention the lack of productivity and the lack of work being done, what do you think the response is?  Yes, a grievance is filed that they are being made to stop vehicles and to meet a quota.  You ask, why can’t you just suspend or fire officers that are clearly not performing their job?  Because you can’t!!!  They are protected by Civil Service and their union.  Statistical evidence will make this very clear. This concerned me so much here that I contacted the NJ Attorney General's office several weeks ago to discuss what can be done about getting our officers back doing their job.

                When I took over this position in 2017, I honestly had no idea about what was really going on at the Police Department.  It didn’t compute to me that a police officer would simply stop performing his/her duty because they objected to Chief Mark Ubry’s style and actions as their chief at that time.  It became clear though fairly quickly.   From a non-economic perspective, it means the streets in our community are less safe.   From an economic perspective, it means that officers are being paid and not performing.  The Judge, Court Administrator, the Deputy Court administrator, the staff and security guards are all being paid but doing dramatically less work.  This is taxpayer money being wasted, and it’s unacceptable.

                One thing you can do as a test to judge whether the allegations are true or not, is to listen to the municipal council meeting recordings for February 5, 2019 and February 19, 2019[1].  These are budget discussions.  Listen to what was actually said and how it was said.  This is NOT about revenue to get our grubby hands on.  It’s about being able to craft a responsible budget.  One that is accurate.  You can’t do that if you don’t discuss and determine and forecast what revenues will be realized in the coming budget year.  I believe these Plaintiffs, in this complaint, do a disservice to our elected officials and our municipal judge by presenting facts in the way they have in the complaint.  Listen to the tapes…read the complaint.  Listen to the tapes….read the complaint. 

                As an example, let’s take Paragraph 20 on Page 5 where the Plaintiffs state the following:

                “During the budget meetings of the governing body of Defendant…., the council openly discussed how Municipal Court revenue increased and that the increase was due to pressure put on the Police Department by Chief Caloiaro.”  I listened to the tape….I didn't hear anything close to that.  The fact is that the Municipal Court revenue was dramatically down, and that presents an issue for budgeting reasons.   The shortfall in revenue from any source in our municipal budget is a legitimate concern to discuss “openly” in order to plan for a budget in the coming year.  This is how responsible government works.  Listen to the tape.

                Or in Paragraph 22 on Page 5 where the Plaintiffs allege the following:

                “…During his presentation, Judge Korngut addressed how he believed some decrease in Municipal Court revenue in 2018 was an “aberrational year” and the future of the Lawrence Court system was on an “upswing” back to levels they’ve seen in 2017.”  I believe proper context would be that the police officers stopped active traffic enforcement during Chief Mark Ubry’s time because they were displeased with him and the environment he had created. 

                Let’s look at Par. 71 through 81 concerning Sgt. Stein:  It states,

                "72.  In October of 2018, Sgt. Stein and his squad met at a Wawa to discuss patrol responsibilities for the shift.  The meeting discussed materials usually covered in a briefing.  Instead of a briefing in the department, the Officers decided to be a presence in the community while covering their shift responsibilities.”  I will wait a couple moments while you let this sink in.  Late at night, the Sgt. and his unit met a Wawa instead of in the Police Department before their shift starts.  How would you feel, as a resident taxpayer if you saw 4-5 police officers congregating at the Wawa, probably drinking coffee and talking?  I am told that some residents even called to complain about this.  

                As for the allegation that the storage unit in the back of the Police Department is designed for creating revenue.  Well that’s true to a degree.  When a police officer stops a motor vehicle and the vehicle is not registered or the registration is suspended, the police officer is REQUIRED to impound the vehicle.  There is no discretion.  This happens often times when a vehicle is stopped for a moving violation and further investigation reveals the vehicle is not registered or the registration is suspended.   Not surprisingly, impound revenues is down dramatically because…wait for it…..there are dramatically less motor vehicle stops. 

                It is my understanding that several years ago, Chief Mark Ubry came up with the idea to create a small impound yard behind the police department.  This would keep the impounded vehicles on police grounds, make an easier process for retrieval from the owner and create revenue for the municipality instead of privately owned storage lots.   Residents demand that municipal officials find creative ways to keep taxes down, this was an example of that.   Despite the suggestion that the officers have discretion to impound or not impound, it is not true by law.

                I could go on but I shouldn’t.  I speak honestly and openly to you all on all things and I cannot be silent now.   Some will say I am being unprofessional doing this.  I believe Chief Caloiaro is a good, honest hard working and dedicated police chief.  I believe he is undeserving of this.   If I believed the Plaintiffs, our officers, or that there was even close to the truth about these allegations, my actions would be swift on their behalf.  I hate the fact that I am writing this article.  I hate having been put in this position.   There are many good police officers on our force for sure.  They honor their oath and serve the community.  I am grateful to work with them.   But in my opinion there are some that have followed the lead of a few and have gone astray of their oath, and that’s a shame.    I hope that all of you do not rush to judgment on this lawsuit.  If you care about it, take the time to become knowledgeable about it.  Follow it through the court system to the end.  The Township will defend this civil action because in my opinion it is without merit.  I communicate this way by choice because I think it makes for more transparency.  However,  I will refrain from commenting any further on social media about this issue.  

POST SCRIPT (a simple fact that I thought important to share regarding an allegation in the complaint):  

           One of the allegations contained in the complaint is that the Municipality has an ATM positioned in the Court and Police lobby, and that Municipality is making money on its use.  I direct you to Par. 32 of the complaint where it says the following:

"32.  As the police department only takes cash or money orders, often times they force motorists to use an ATM machine in the lobby of the building.  The ATM machine has a limit of $200 per transaction.  The ATM collects a fee per transaction which pays additional money to the Municipality.  Therefore, in order for a motorist to get their vehicle back when he/she pays cash, the motorist has to use the ATM machine twice and pay two fees for the use of the ATM before they have enough cash to pay for the impound fee."

           When you read that in the complaint, how many of you were outraged?  How many couldn't believe that your Town would be so low to do such a thing?  Well, the truth is that Lawrence Township does not make a single penny on that ATM machine.  It was installed at the request of Chief Mark Ubry because he felt that it would offer more convenience to those that needed money while doing court or police business.  The transaction fee ($3.00) goes to the ATM owner.....NOT TO THE TOWNSHIP.   Do you know how simple it is to verify this fact?  All that you would have to do is to send an email to me, the clerk or our CFO and ask, "How much revenue is received by the Township for the ATM machine at the Court and Police Building annually?  We would all provide an answer: $0.00.  If you wanted to be more formal, you can file an OPRA request (Open Public Records Act) which you can do online and by email to our Clerk.  This was NOT done by the Plaintiffs or their attorney in this case.  Yet, so many of you believed the complaint on its face.  I have the emails and comments to me letting me know how awful we are.  This is something to think about when you wonder about this matter.




[1] You may contact the Municipal Clerk in advance to arrange to listen to the recordings.  Please do not just walk in as preparations have to be made to accommodate you.  

31 comments:

Anderson said...

My car was impounded and not taken to the lot you speak of. It was taken to a private towing lot. Along with another woman who that same day had the same situation happen to her.

Anonymous said...

Why don't officers in Lawrence have any discretion with regard to impounding a vehicle? This happened:
https://www.trentonian.com/opinion/car-registration-laws-in-nj-are-out-of-control-jeff/article_6729c4c3-e119-5cc6-b9f4-cc31dd1be43f.html

And I wondered when reading that if it was a case of Lawrence having quotas or if it was racism or perhaps both. Twice in 35+ years of driving in NJ, I've forgotten to renew my registration. I was given a ticket the first time, but not towed. Embarrassingly, I made the same mistake again a few years later. This time, I was given a warning and not towed. Why the difference between how I was treated versus the woman in the story? Is it because Hopewell and Ewing don't have quotas and Lawrence does? Or was it because I am white? It's not every day that I'm reminded of my white privilege, but it sure seems like that's the explanation when contrasting my experience with Ms. Thomas' story. I'm hard pressed to think of a public safety issue that was served by stranding a mother and three year old child by the side of the road in January on the first business day after her registration expired. And I'm embarrassed and ashamed of my hometown that this happened to a black mother in my community.
You are correct that we should not rush to any judgement without reviewing all the evidence. The community has a right to know what is behind disparate treatment of citizens by our municipalities. Careful consideration of all the evidence will hopefully point to the root cause.

Anonymous said...

white privilege

Anonymous said...

What law REQUIRES officers to impound a vehicle with an expired registration? Is it a policy determined by elected officials in Lawrence or a policy set by the Chief? As I read the NJ law, it reads "May" which is not the same as "Required" by any stretch of the imagination.

39:3-40.3. Impoundment of motor vehicles
4. a. A motor vehicle subject to the provisions of this act may be impounded by any law enforcement officer if the registrant:

(1) knowingly permits an unlicensed driver to operate that motor vehicle;

(2) operates or permits the operation of that motor vehicle without a valid temporary registration or valid temporary registration plates as authorized under section 3 of P.L.1995, c.286 (C.39:3-40.2);

Kevin said...

For those that have commented on this blog...thank you for sharing your thoughts.

For the first person to comment about his vehicle being taken to an off site towing lot: Please know that the storage lot behind our Police Department is very small. There could have been many reasons why your vehicle was taken to an offsite facility. One could be that it was closer to take your vehicle to the private lot. Another is that there was no room at our lot because of its size.

For the person who commented about the Trentonian article about the woman being stranded with her small child. That is a tough one. I don't know the full details of what actually occurred (and I refuse to believe everything the Trentonian writes...sorry...I'm not going to be that person). But if you did accept the Trentonian's account, I would agree that this particular matter wasn't handled correctly. I certainly hope that this event doesn't discount all of the good things that our police department does for everyone in the community. And, yes, rushing to judgment on the lawsuit would be a mistake.

And just very generally, the trouble with using discretion when a vehicle is pulled over that is not insured or not registered is that when the Police Officer allows the person to proceed to drive...and that driver then gets into an accident...who do you think will become ultimately responsible for either the property damage or personal injuries sustained by the victim who was struck by the uninsured or unregistered vehicle? Yes, the police officer (and the Township) for allowing a vehicle to be driven on the roads of NJ without proof of registration or insurance. This is the world we live in, and when taxpayer money is at risk, all precautions should be taken.

For the person who commented "white privilege" I have no response other than to say I don't believe race was an issue in this matter. But of course you are free to express your opinion.

For the person asking what law requires officers to impound vehicles and then citing a statute that involves driving on the suspended list (which is not related to the status of a motor vehicle), I simply tell you that there are several laws that require the impound of a vehicle. One I can think of off the top of my head is 39:4-50.23 (which is Driving While Intoxicated).

a. Whenever a person has been arrested for a violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a), the arresting law enforcement agency shall impound the vehicle that the person was operating at the time of arrest.



Anonymous said...

Not white privilege. I am a white woman and forgot to renew my registration. Pulled over almost in front of the police station. Car impounded and towed to a lot in Yardville.

Anonymous said...

Your talking so poorly about the officers that filed the suit. Isnt is against township policy to talk publicly about other township employees. Maybe you should shut up and let the courts hash this out. I dont believe for a second that this wasnt happening...at least to some extent.

History5644 said...

I understand there are times when impounding a car is necessary. Not having your registration renewed is NOT one of them. The police have access to who owns the car on their computer systems. Now not having insurance is a different story. However, 10 bucks a day plus the towing fee should be all someone is charged. The taxpayers already paid for those spots at the police station. There is NO need to make a huge profit on those spots. BTW i'm not too keen on Lawrence having a totally unmarked car used for traffic violations. I find unmarked cars set a dangerous precedent. I have told my daughters to never pull over for an unmarked vehicle just because it has lights flashing. Anyone can order and install the low profile interior lights on their cars. Lawrence should rethink this option. Marked cars slow everyone down. Unmarked cars are simply for revenue.

Anonymous said...

They are unmarked so they can sneak around and fund raise. Unmarked patrol and the bullshit ghost lettering should be outlawed. Just another way to pull over and tax people!

Anderson said...

The officer who had my car towed did not mention that there was a lot in lawrence at all. Your post is the firstI have heard of a lot, no matter how small. He also told me that some cars have a "special" scanner specifically for seeing if a car is registered or not. Therefore he was specifically targeting unregistered vehicles because it was easy. There was no other reason for him pulling my vehicle over, he mentioned no other reason. I suspect because he saw no inspection sticker on my front windshield which prompted him to pull a uturn and pull me over. (By the way, my vehicle was only 3 years old at the time and did not require an inspection sticker).

history5644@gmail.com said...

I also believe it's not a good idea to make this kind of statement publicly. You know it's going to end up being discussed in court and cost us more money in lawyer fees.

Joe Stentch said...

Hey Anonymous! What ever happened to freedom of speech? Oh, that only applies when you want YOUR opinion heard! Mr. Nerwinski has the freedom of speech entitled to him in the constitution! I like to hear his opinion as to what is really going on with these money hungry plaintiffs who are only out to try to rob the town of a large settlement which by the way is placed on the back of us tax payers! Oh, did you know that several of these plaintiffs have filed suit prior? As stated, instead of working hard they count on lawsuits to pay for their White and Black Chevy Tahoe’s thst they drive!

Joe Stentch said...

Hey Anonymous, you’re a moron! Who forgets to renew their registration NOT ONCE BUT TWICE? Is this why your silly towing show was cancelled? DMV sends you the renewal form two months in advance so there is no reason to forget to register your car! You can register on line! Do you happen to have the ability to run a computer? Maybe you’re not fit at all to run for town council if you can’t remember to register your car! Say no to his town council bid! Send him back to the pawn shop since the towing business went under!

Anonymous said...

Get your head out of your ass joe.

Joe Stentch said...

Have I struck a nerve anonymous? Guess the truth must hurt, huh? Why run for township council if you oppose freedom of speech? It was ok for you to post lies about our fine men and women of the Lawrence Township Police Department but not when the truth is being told! As a tax payer of Lawrence Township, I applaud Mr. Nerwinski for being transparent and honest! I want to know the real truth about what’s going on! As should my fellow citizens of Lawrence Township! Why wait for a trial? Let the truth be told! I drive into the municipal parking lot to apply for permits and pay my taxes. All I see is luxury SUV’s and cars! I’m not saying the cops don’t deserve their salary but what I am saying is that they certainly don’t need to lie in a lawsuit to get free money from we as tax payers! That’s what strikes a nerve with me, MR. TOWN COUNCIL CANDIDATE! You will not get my vote on Election Day!

Joe Stentch said...

You weren’t complaining about the “bullshit ghost lettering” when your half assed towing business was profiting, were you Mr. Town Council Candidate? Only when you want to spread propaganda and lies is it “bullshit ghost lettering”

Joe Stentch said...

I do have a question for Mr. Nerwinski. A couple years back, I was at Amalfi‘s restaurant and then Chief Ubry was feeling no pain and told me that he wanted to stay until the police departments 100 anniversary. My question is, why the sudden departure of Chief Ubry? While on the subject of the last name Ubry, I’ve heard a rumor that his son Matthew is no longer a police officer in Lawrence Township. Why?

Joe Stentch said...

Hey Anonymous, my head is out of my A** but I’ve heard nothing but crickets from you Mr. Councilman Candidate. I’m going to go to the local establishments this weekend and talk to people! Seems like there are a lot of skeletons in the closet! How’s that saying go? People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? I also have a question for you. What’s your relationship with the plaintiffs in this case? Could a monetary payment to a the plaintiffs benefit you and your COUNCIL BID! You can’t possibly make too much money on a pawn shop. How about your relationship with the former police Chief and his son? Do you know them? Maybe the true extortion here is you and your elaborate scheme with the plaintiffs to extort money from the township?🤔 Am I a conspiracy theorist, maybe! BUT seems pretty logical! Comments? And go...........

Jenn Hsiao said...

Joe, you are quite passionate about your views. I’m not here to judge, but perhaps this is not the best forum for your thoughts on “Mr. Councilman Candidate”. Please consider this may not be the right place for confrontation. Your feelings are valid, but so are 2 sides that will end up in court. We may all speculate, and converse and I am glad we have such open conversation in this town. As I’m sure no one wants to go back and open a can of worms. I would suggest you do a little research for some newspaper articles going back a few years about Chief Ubry. There were articles from both the Trentonian and Trenton Times.

Joe Stentch said...

Jenn Hsiao, if “Mr Councilman Candidate” wants to run for Township council and openly criticize Mr. Nerwinski and the Township Police Chief then I have EVERY RIGHT to ask the tough questions of him! If he’s best friends with the former police Chief and his son, why can’t I ask questions! See my above dialog. My question is this. Why isn’t Mark Ubry the police Chief any longer and where did his son miraculously go? A town council candidate who is best friend with them should have transparency! Please answer my question “Mr. Town Council Candidste”! Maybe I’ll file one of those records requests to learn more about this information! I don’t know you Jenn Hsiao but I can tell you this, I’m not going to be silenced because my mama always told me, god rest her soul, IF IT STINKS LIKE S*IT JOEY, it is S*it! Have a good day Ms. Hsiao!

Anonymous said...

Again, what is the law that requires Lawrence Police to impound a vehicle solely for having an expired registration? This isn't at all about someone driving on the suspended list or being intoxicated. And this is one of the complaints in the lawsuit, that Lawrence Police don't have discretion with regard to expired registrations.
In your original blog post, you claim the law allows no discretion for an officer pulling over a car with an expired registration. Which law is it that you are referring to? Did our elected state representatives enact that law? Is it a Lawrence ordinance for which we can thank Mike Powers and Kathy Lewis when we head to the polls next month? Or is it a rule decided by the Chief of Police?

Joe Stentch said...

Hey, there he is! Hi Mr. Town Council Candidate! You’ve emerged from cricket land! Now you bring Mike and Kathy into it! Let see, while you’re running your pawn shop, which by the way is one step up from a PORN SHOP, why don’t you call every police department in Mercer County and pole them! Let us all know the results. I’m ignorant to a lot of stuff but I have to say that if the cops are towing and impounding, it’s lawful. MAMA ALWAYS SAID, JOEY, YOU’RE JUDGED by the COMPANY YOU KEEP! Mr. Councilman Candidate, you better find some new friends. My MAMA also said, JOEY, NEVER LIE BECAUSE THE TRUTH ALWAYS COMES OUT! In this case, LET THE TRUTH BE TOLD BECAUSE WHEN IT IS, THERES A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO. I’ll always love my MAMA!

Anonymous said...

@Mr. Stentch, I am not a candidate for any office and I never had any association with any of the businesses you mention. We can all agree that a whistleblower lawsuit was filed and Mr. Nerwinski published his perspective in an apparent defense of the town and the chief. The sticking point is his claim that the law *requires* police to impound a vehicle merely for having an expired registration.
One resorts to ad hominem attacks when they know the facts are not on their side. Reading and hearing that done with regards to this case suggests to me that the officers who filed the suit do, indeed, have a point.

Joe Stentch said...

@Mr Town Council Candidate. AKA: Anonymous Let’s not lose sight of my questions. What happened to your best friends the Ubry boys? I’m starting to hear rumors but I refuse to comment on rumors unlike you and your boys who have been running the rumor mill about Mr. Nerwinski and Chief Calorio. I’m also hearing rumors that you’re tight with several of the plaintiffs in this case. So I again ask you, are you receiving any monetary gain from this lawsuit. I’m a tax payer. I deserve to know if you and the plaintiffs are extorting the town. I can tell you this, if I can confirm the rumors I’m hearing as true Mr. Town Council Candidate, it is explosive and explains why this lawsuit was filed in the first place. MAMA always said, Joey, Karma’s a Bi*ch. what goes around comes around. I believe MAMA and so should the good people of Lawrence Township.

BBM169 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BBM169 said...

I will not comment on the litigation other than to say that dragging people into the suit who are not involved is quite sad and factually incorrect.

Joe Stentch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Stentch said...

Who are you BBM 169? Do you have personal knowledge about the litigation? Please tell more. Do you know where the ghost’s are (papa and son Ubry) we might have to send out a search party for them soon. They’re MIA!

Joe Stentch said...

Mama always said, if someone disappears, it’s either the mafia or they done wrong. Which is it BBM 169?

BBM169 said...

Stentch, I was directly referring to the inclusion of people and names in the lawsuit who are not involved and that such references are factually incorrect. This is the Township Manager’s blog regarding the lawsuit, inviting public comments and concerns. It hardly seems an appropriate platform for senseless banter unrelated to the topic between you and others posting under anonymity like a bunch of cowards.
Who I am is clearly indicated by my display name.

Joe Stentch said...

BBM 169, Did you know mama? God rest her soul. I’m Joey Stench, the name mama gave me. Calling Anonymous a coward isn’t true because we all know him. He’s running for town council. The only thing anonymous about him will be the number of votes he receives on November 5. If you’re in the loop BBM169, please share where those Ubry boys are. Mama always loved Halloween because she always said all the skeletons come out of the Closet and the ghosts are in the wind! Are those Ubry’s skeletons or ghosts?

My Deepest Apologies to Rich and Frankie and their families.

On the front page of the Trentonian newspaper today there was an extremely odd and poorly written article that was intended solely to dispar...