New administrator, police dept. promotion on Cranford agenda

CRANFORD — After an outside search for a new administrator, the township was expected to announce Tuesday that interim administrator Joseph Hartnett will take the position permanently. But the governing body was also expected to make another appointment, one that may have surprised everyone.

In addition to bringing Hartnett aboard, Mayor Tom Hannen, Jr. was expected to announce that they were also advancing Police Lt. James Wozniak to the rank of captain.

This move comes as a surprise, even though there have been rumors about the advancement, because normally the police chief makes advancements. In fact, it is highly unusual for a governing body to get involved in advancements of police department personnel.

According to sources, though, the captain position remained vacant ever since police Capt. John Baer retired early in 2012. Since then Police Chief Eric Mason made no move to replace the position in the ensuing months.

The appointment of Hartnett comes after more than a year of speculation over who would actually be the new administrator. Hartnett, who in the past served 30 years as Rahway’s administrator, took over the interim administrator position several months ago.

Mason served in the dual position of interim administrator and police chief from the end of September 2011 until January 1, 2012 after former administrator Marlena Schmid was abruptly put on forced administrative leave Sept. 12, 2011 just a few weeks after Tropical Storm Irene hit the township. Schmid was later let go at the end of the year.

Mason was fully expected to retire as police chief and assume the administrator role but later changed his mind. While the police chief has not returned calls since the end of last year, according to officials Mason was unhappy he could not get confirmation from the state that he would be allowed to “double dip,” or receive his police pension and immediately assume the administrator position in the same municipality.

Adding fuel to the fire was that the township had undergone an intensive internal search for a new police chief, selecting Wozniak, a 23-year veteran of the force, as their choice for the position.

After Mason went back to being police chief, he advanced two officers without the approval of the governing body.