ELIZABETH – Signs of fallout began to surface last week after weeks of police officer sources revealing there is corruption deep within the leadership of the Elizabeth Police Department.
Late last week, as a result of information being brought forth by LocalSource regarding the Elizabeth Police Department pay job scandal, among other allegations being raised, the Elizabeth Board of Education decided it was time to see if the police officers they hire to work in security positions at schools throughout the city actually showed up for work or not.
The Elizabeth Board of Education called for a full audit of the time and taxpayer dollars spent on hiring off-duty police officers for security purposes at the schools.
According to the board of education, for years the school district has hired additional police coverage through the police department to provide for a safe environment during the day and at dismissal of the students. As a result, the city charges the board of education over $200,000 annually to provide this police coverage for Elizabeth’s school children.
Because public funds were expended to pay these police officers, the board is requesting a full audit be conducted by the Elizabeth Police Department involving all off-duty paid jobs by police officers involving the school district.
According to police sources, off-duty pay jobs go through the department and officers must sign up for these jobs in order to be eligible. In the last three weeks, an investigation by LocalSource revealed that not only were city police officers reaping a cash bonanza for no-show overtime with the housing authority pay jobs, but the practice was across the board and involved every type of off-duty pay job the department is requested to fill. This includes off-duty pay jobs for the school district.
As a result, the school district is requesting all names, dates, times of duty and school sites where police officers worked pay jobs to be included in the audit.
In addition, the school board went a step further by petitioning the New Jersey State Comptroller to conduct an independent audit of the paid police jobs in the school district “to insure the Elizabeth Public Schools were not the victim of corruption alleged in the newspaper articles and admitted by the two Elizabeth police officers who have pled guilty to a crime.”
“Safety is our number one priority – and we will ensure that our taxpayers receive the maximum amount of security coverage from out police department, especially when we have to pay for it ourselves,” Tony Monteiro, president of the Elizabeth Board of Education, said Monday.
“We have a dedicated security force in all of our schools and we reinforce that by hiring Elizabeth police officers to keep our children and team members safe,” Monteiro added, noting that he was “very fortunate” to have met many dedicated police officers who are committed to the public safety of the community because “we rely on them day and night.”
Police Department responding internally to allegations
This latest backlash, however, came prior to what police officer sources maintained was “just a front” by the leadership of the police department to demonstrate they were dealing administratively with the 18 officers who participated in the no-show pay job scandal.
Following Christopher Flatley and Michael Tropeano pleading guilty to charges of third degree theft by deception earlier this month for taking off-duty pay jobs for which they never showed up, dozens of police officer sources told LocalSource they were concerned the 18 other police officers involved would only get a slap on the hand.
Others indicated Flatley and Tropeano were merely “thrown under the bus” in order to save members of Shannon’s “family” and Cosgtrove’s “minions.”
According to multiple sources, this was proven to be accurate when Shannon moved quickly to ensure Capt. Giacomo Sacca’s absence at housing authority pay jobs was corrected. Sources said internal affairs made changes to Sacca’s log sheets or got rid of those that could incriminate him.
A dozen police sources, including several high in the department, said Sacca’s attendance records for Jersey Gardens Mall pay jobs were also modified so it would not show he was “double dipping,” or actually working a shift in the police department while collecting $30 an hour for a pay job at the mall.
There was no indication if the remaining 18 police officers would receive punishment for their participation in the pay job scandal. Calls to both Police Director James Cosgrove and Police Chief Patrick Shannon received no response and Mayor Chris Bollwage still has not addressed the matter either by speaking directly with LocalSource or via a statement.
Last week, according to police officer sources, two police officers, Detective James Diorio and Detective James Malone Jr., who were on the list of pay-job violators that went to the prosecutor’s office last September, were told they “had to retire” by April 1. Other officers on the list, they reported, were scheduled for “interviews” with the Internal Affairs division. Subsequently these officers will receive a hearing with Cosgrove and a final determination will be made as to their future with the department.
Sources say Diorio and Malone will retire with full pension and benefits.
Every police officer involved, sources said, is being interviewed with their own attorney present.
Sources also indicated that Shannon, back from vacation in Aruba, has gone on medical leave for a shoulder operation and will be out for an undetermined period of time.
Although more than three dozen police department sources brought forth allegations of criminal activities within the department, including altering of traffic fatality reports so Shannon could pursue a Masters degree online, there has been no indication that Cosgrove or Bollwage took steps to look into this official police department misconduct.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office has also not addressed these new allegations of misconduct.
In the meantime, a fundraiser cocktail party for “Friends of Mike Tropeano” is being held tomorrow night at the Hilton Newark Airport in Elizabeth for the police officer who lost his job as a result of the no-show pay job scandal. The fundraiser was organized by his brother, Vito Tropeano, an officer in the Elizabeth Police Department.
At issue is the fact Tropeano used the Elizabeth Police Department telephone number for those interested in attending as the contact, which is in direct violation of the law. According to New Jersey State statutes, fund raising cannot take place on public property.
The flier read,”Feel free to contact Vito Tropeano directly at 908-884-1000 if you have questions,” which included the direct line to the Elizabeth Police Department.