A ‘family’ affair in Elizabeth

Allegations continue to circulate as officials remain silent

ELIZABETH — Despite more than two dozen police officers continuing to bring forth evidence that corruption runs deep within the leadership of the police department, there have been no responses so far from Mayor Chris Bollwage, Police Director James Cosgrove or Police Chief Patrick Shannon.

Last week police officers continued to provide additional incidents of corruption within the police department hierarchy, as well as those in their charge that are in “the family.”

In fact, late last week information was uncovered about who exactly was involved in the altering of official police traffic fatality reports that paved the way for Shannon to pursue his master’s degree online.

According to these police sources, Shannon needed proof that he had hands on experience in traffic division fatality investigations to continue with this degree, so he used traffic division accident reports actually completed by then Traffic Detective Richie Hernandez, who was asked to supply the reports.

The altering of these official investigative reports to include Shannon was overseen by Detective Dave DeRosa, a member of Shannon’s “family,” who is protected by the police chief from departmental retaliation, according to multiple sources.

The “family” is a clique within the Elizabeth Police Department that has opened doors for advancement to members, among other perks such as signing up for off-duty pay jobs, never showing up and still being paid close to $30 an hour.

This clique, according to more than two dozen police officers, has been going on for decades and while not as large or strong as it once was, remains a source of problems for police officers not involved.

Of concern is that members of “the family” receive promotions and advancements before members of the force not part of Shannon’s clique.

Sources said the police chief allegedly wanted the traffic division fatality reports altered to include his name as assisting in the investigations even though he never participated in any way during these investigations. DeRosa, they said, then notarized the reports and submitted them to Thomas Edison College, which is where Shannon had pursued his online degree.

One source actually witnessed the altering of reports taking place and was threatened with a demotion if he ever spoke about it. According to at least 15 sources, it was widely known within the department that Shannon had these official police reports altered, but officers felt there was nothing they could do about it.

“I think that is common knowledge,” said one police officer, who pointed out that even though this is official misconduct by those involved, including Shannon, this type of behavior is “business as usual within the Elizabeth Police Department.”
“Why do you think we want someone to step in here and clean things up? Things like that should never go on but it does and more,” a police officer source said.

Also brought out by multiple sources was that Lt. Daniel Saulnier, an official spokesperson for the Elizabeth Police Department, took Shannon’s online tests for him as he pursued his Master’s degree. This, too, said police sources, was common knowledge.

Sources also revealed that all of this information was submitted to the Union County Prosecutor’s office, who in turn submitted it to the New Jersey Attorney General, who sent it back to the prosecutor’s office.

Sources also alleged that nothing more came of this because Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives John McCabe is personal friends with Shannon.

Curious is that multiple sources told LocalSource that while the no-show job scandal was coming to a head, then Elizabeth Police Department Internal Affairs Supervisor Capt. Andrew King sent an internal private memo to Shannon requesting he immediately be removed from command over internal affairs because he could not trust internal affairs investigators Sgt. Steven Negrey and Lt. Daniel Geddes conducting investigations.

According to 10 sources, in addition to retired officers, this was based on the fact Negrey was suspended without pay for six months for filing false reports more than 20 times. Sources also said Negrey is making thousands of dollars in overtime running investigations which involve allegations of the same exact criminal conduct he admitted to engaging in himself.

Likewise, Lt. Daniel Geddes, of the internal affairs department, is investigating fellow officers for the no-show jobs violations but has repeatedly done the same thing he is accusing other officers of doing, according to multiple sources.

Despite this, Shannon has not removed either Negrey or Geddes from internal affairs because they are protected members of “the family.” Cosgrove also has not taken action against these two members of the department even though he is aware of the situation, sources said.

In fact, police sources continue to maintain the entire no-show job mess coming to light is the result of officers observing Shannon and members of “the family” doing the same thing without repercussions.
“Shannon has accumulated thousands of hours for no show jobs over the years while he sat at his second vacation home on Long Beach Island,” one source said, adding the police chief was paid for overtime jobs that occurred while he actually was assigned to patrol and officially “on duty.” This was confirmed by multiple other police sources.

“He would have his friends open his office door and turn on the lights to appear he was at work,” one police source said. He mentioned that just prior to Shannon becoming chief, while supervisor of the narcotics division, he was transferred from narcotics because of putting in excessive overtime.

Sources said a good example of how the police chief protects members of the family can be seen in how he protects of Capt. Giacomo Sacca.

According to at least 12 sources, Shannon used his influence to get Sacca moved to Jersey Gardens Mall where he was put in charge of training mall security guards.

“Sacca is being paid over $100,000 for heading up the mall security division while getting paid for extra duty jobs while he is supposed to be working at the mall,” said one source, which was confirmed by multiple other police sources.

In addition, according to one source, Sacca came in second on the test police officers must take to qualify for the promotion. Lt. Jamie Colon, according to the source, placed first on the exam.

Members of the police department brought the mall situation to Shannon’s attention, sources said, but the police chief never did anything about it, sources reported.

“You have to realize something; Capt. Sacca was in charge of the Narcotic Unit when these pay job scams were going on. Narcotics ran rampant with pay jobs, with officers always working pay jobs and never showing up for regular work,” the police source explained, adding that as much as 75 percent of the Narcotics Unit was either abusing their regular police duty assignment or off duty pay jobs by not showing up.

“Sacca was transferred to head up mall security when the heat got turned up on the pay job scam last fall,” the source said, pointing out that for 20 years, mall training was headed up by one lieutenant. Now Sacca brought in a sergeant to help him, sources said.

“Now you have a lieutenant that was originally placed there, a sergeant and Sacca doing a job that only took one person to do for 20 years,” the police officer source said, adding “and all three of them are members of the family.”

The lieutenant and sergeant on the mall detail in addition to Sacca, LocalSource has learned, are Lt. Richard Shaughnessy and Sgt. Michael Maulshagen.

LocalSource also learned from an inside source at the Union County Prosecutor’s Office that initially veteran Assistant Prosecutor Ann Rubin was supervising the investigation of the Elizabeth Police Department pay job scandal involving more than 20 police officers but was removed from the case by acting Prosecutor Grace Park.

Apparently Rubin wrote a ten-page internal memo to Park recommending none of the police officers involved in taking money for overtime pay jobs be prosecuted and the entire matter be sent back to the Elizabeth Police Department to be handled administratively, according to sources.

Prosecutor’s Office sources said Park removed Rubin from the case and re-assigned the Elizabeth Police Department investigation to another assistant prosecutor, however, this was the first time a case was taken from an assistant prosecutor.

Sources within the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that Park, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie in June 2013, began to intensify the Elizabeth pay job scandal investigation after requests to meet with Bollwage to discuss the situation in the police department fell on deaf ears. Within days of the mayor canceling yet another meeting with Park, sources reported that the acting prosecutor sent target letters to police officers on the list.

Of particular interest, Prosecutor’s Office sources said, was that these letters were sent within days of Bollwage publicly criticizing Republican Gov. Chris Christie prior to the November election.

When directly asked about many of these allegations made about Elizabeth and the Prosecutor’s Office, Park had a brief and terse written statement.

“I will not respond to any questions based on matters of unsubstantiated speculation published without any named, legitimate sources,” she said. “Regarding your questions about a variety of purported internal affairs matters, it is the policy of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office to adhere to the NJ Office of the Attorney General guidelines that prohibit releasing any information – including the existence or nonexistence of an investigation – regarding all internal affairs matters.”

However, sources within the Prosecutor’s Office maintained that Bollwage’s criticism of the governor, coupled with the fact the mayor refused to send police department personnel to the Union County Homicide Task Force, forced Park’s hand.

It was at this point, Prosecutor’s Office sources said, Park began to narrow the pay job investigation to two specific police officers, 24-year veteran officer Christopher Flatley and Michael Tropeano, a 15-year veteran officer. Shortly thereafter Bollwage backed down and made a deal with Park to let her office investigate all homicides in Elizabeth, which he had refused to do since last year.

Questions have also surfaced over Park refusing to turn over evidence known as “Brady material” to attorneys representing police officers involved in the pay job scandal, according to multiple sources.

However, when asked about the so-called “Brady material,” the Park denied the allegations in her written statement.
“No, this is not true,” she said. “It is categorically false.”