CLARK — Clark officials are gearing up for what could prove to be another lengthy legal battle in the wake of an investigative report released by the state’s Attorney General late last month.
On Monday, during a special meeting held ahead of the evening’s regularly- scheduled workshop session, the township council unanimously gave its consent to award a structured contract to Kronick Resolutions, a third-party legal firm based out of Jersey City, that will be tasked with meting out disciplinary recommendations in relation to three police officers who were named in the report.
The 42-page investigative report, which was released to the public on the same day that unrelated charges of fraud and misconduct were filed against Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, includes strong recommendations that two of the three officers — Chief Pedro Matos and Sergeant Joseph Teston — be fired from the force, and that a third — Captain Vincent Concina — be demoted before being allowed to return to active duty.
And while such responsibilities would usually fall to the mayor in a Faulkner Act municipality like Clark, Attorney General Matt Platkin strongly urged the township to hire outside help to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
The firm will be paid $1,500 per day for each of the three officer’s individual disciplinaryhearings,TownshipAdministrator James Ulrich said Monday, and $200 per hour for the purpose of writing opinions and gathering information.
“We have no way of knowing how long these proceedings will take,” Mr. Ulrich said, adding that the duration of each hearing will largely be determined by the amount of information that is presented. “At this point, we only have some of what we need from the Attorney General. It could take some time.”
All three officers, Mr. Ulrich continued, have already requested discovery from both the township and the state.
Clark resident Michael Shulman urged the council to enact a resolution in support of the AG’s disciplinary recommendations.
“I know that you can’t officially terminate [the officers in question], but you can take a position,” he said. “It is disappointing that the council, even after the Attorney General’s report was released, continues to remain silent and refuses to act. But I guess hiring a mediator is a good first step.”
The Kronick contract is the second of its kind to be awarded by the council in the last month. During a special meeting held on November 6, the township’s governing body voted to award a contract to O’Toole Scrivo, LLC, to represent the township’s interests in ongoing legal proceedings related to former Clark Police Lieutenant Antonio Manata.
“Ourattorney[MarkDugan]isnamed as a defendant in Manata’s lawsuit, so this firm has been hired to represent the township when Mr. Dugan can’t,” Mr. Ulrich explained Monday.
“At this point, it feels like we’re paying 10 different law firms doing 10 different things, all because of the performance of our mayor — the things that he’s said, the things that he’s done and the things that have been allowed to happen under his watch,” resident Daniel Fuchs said, addressing the council during Monday night’s workshop session.
Mayor Bonaccorso, who was not in attendance at the council’s last public meeting on November 20, also was absent from Monday night’s proceedings.