On final day in office, generator mess put to rest

Outgoing prosecutor closes the book on ‘generatorgate’ as he hands over the reigns to his replacement

UNION COUNTY — The investigation into who took home generators following superstorm Sandy is completed and no criminal wrongdoing was found. However, neither the prosecutor’s office nor the county will release the names of those involved.

Last week the prosecutor’s office finished its inquiry into the matter that has dragged on for almost seven months, on the final day in office for former prosecutor Theodore Romankow, who has now been replaced by Grace Park.

And while it was expected the infamous “list” of names would be revealed, neither the prosecutor’s office nor county officials would release the information because it involved “personnel.” The entire matter has now been handed over to Union County Manager Al Faella for “administrative action.”

County Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia said Tuesday that because the matter involved personnel, the names of those involved could not be released. Neither would information involving any possible disciplinary action levied on the employees in question be revealed.

According to a source working for the county who is knowledgeable about disciplinary action that could be taken, Faella could impose suspensions as a result of findings by the prosecutor’s office.

Prior to leaving on June 16, former prosecutor Ted Romankow noted the report was completed and the results of the inquiry were sent to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, Division of Criminal Justice, for review.

The former prosecutor said the state agreed with the results of their inquiry into the matter and recommended the county deal with the problem administratively.

According to Romankow, Faella received the report last week, explaining it was highly unlikely the issue would be brought into the public domain again.

From the start, the prosecutor’s office maintained they only had a list of four or five names, but that number increased as the months went by. At one point Romankow said there “could” be as many as 10 to 12 county employees involved.

Adding to the mystery was that a Cranford blogger and activist claimed on a local website that she had the names of 16 to 20 employees who took home generators. Romankow, despite issuing a subpoena to the blogger and going through a three day hearing, was unable to obtain the additional names.

The prosecutor would only say, just days before leaving, that his office found there was no criminal wrong doing since many of those involved had permission from their superiors to take the generators in question home. He also said he could not confirm nor deny the names of departments heads obtained by LocalSource from multiple sources.

According to a county source close to the inquiry, there were two types of generators taken home by county employees. One was the larger generator, which is used to keep traffic signals going during a power outage, but has to be hauled on a trailer, and a smaller version that is easily transported in a regular automobile.

Several months ago the county received an anonymous list of employees who allegedly took home generators after the storm. This list of names was forwarded to the prosecutors office, which Localsource confirmed.

Following this, multiple sources, all who are employed by the county but are unknown to one another, provided information about the names on the list.

After investigating the matter and having these names confirmed by multiple sources from the county and prosecutor’s office, LocalSource was able to confirm four of the employees on the list.

Included was high ranking department heads from the Union County Department of Public Safety, Department of Engineering, Public Works and Facilities, a county jail employee who recently ran for sheriff in the primary, and a sheriff’s department employee with 30 years tenure who retired shortly after it was discovered he took home a generator.

Included among these employees from the Division of Police was Chief Daniel Vaniska. Also on the list was Director of Facilities Management Neil Palmieri and county jail employee Rich Purchell, who recently challenged Sheriff Ralph Froehlich in the primary and lost.

Although Froehlich would not confirm that one of his employees at the time, Barry Miglore, a veteran captain with 30 years employment with the department, took home a smaller generator for personal use, another department employee verified that he did. This also was confirmed by multiple other sources at the county level.

According to one source, Miglore only had the generator for a matter of hours before it was returned. Shortly afterward, he retired from the department.

It is unknown how many names were on the final list the prosecutor’s office investigated, or what was discovered about how the generators were used.