MAHWAH – Two GOP freeholders today alleged a serious violation of public trust in the formulation of a Bergen County proposal to restructure the county police department, calling out Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin, state Sen. Gerry Cardinale (R-39), Freeholder Chairman John Mitchell, and their respective attorneys.
“We removed ourselves because of our concern that we were being used as pawns in a political backroom deal that is not in the best interests of the taxpayers we were elected to represent,” Freeholder Maura DeNicola said, explaining hers and Freeholder Rob Hermansen’s decision to shut down a vote on the proposed referendum at last week’s freeholder meeting.
“I never thought politics and government would get to this point, and I am saddened to be here,” said Hermansen, standing with DeNicola at the county police training facility. “I swore to expose this whenever I found it, and that is why I am here today. I am especially angered that this time it has come from my own party.”
Running for re-election this year after defeating Yudin’s convention candidate, Hermansen said he received the plan – which includes the laying off of 80 police officers – 15 minutes before the start of a public meeting.
County police backed up the freeholders at their training center here, incensed over the prospective shrinking of their SWAT and bomb squads, a power play to weaken County Executive Kathe Donovan, who has authority over the county police.
“Yes,” said DeNicola, when asked if this is a blatant attempt by Yudin, Cardinale and company to defang Donovan.
“The people of Bergen County elected us, not a party boss to regulate what is going on on that freeholder board,” said Hermansen. “I knew this was going to be an uphill struggle… but with that I stood because I was doing the right thing for… the people.”
Part of his and DiNicola’s chief objection included their fellow party members’ backroom sharing of information about the controversial referendum, with the inclusion of Freeholder David Ganz – a Democrat.
At the heart of the freeholders’ protest stands an email chain purportedly between the attorneys packaging the language for the referendum in question and Bergen County Freeholder Chairman John Mitchell. The chain continues a suggestion from counsel Richard Malagiere to Freeholder Chairman Mitchell.
“Chairman, please consider sending this to (Democratic) Freeholder Ganz for review.”
“I will Rich… Thanks,” writes Mitchell.
Hermansen also noted the presence in the email chain of attorney Douglas Doyle of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick and Cole, who is directly involved in a local effort in Demarest to have the county police take over patrolling the town.
The freeholder board is scheduled to vote on the refrendum for a county police consolidation plan again tomorrow.
Following their presentation, the crowd of county police officers and their allies clapped vociferously.
In a statement later emailed to the press, Donovan associated herself with the remarks of the two freeholders, and questioned Yudin’s fitness for the GOP chairmanship
“The press conference today by Freeholders DeNicola and Hermansen revealed e-mails exchanged between the parties which prove that a so-called deliberative, governmental process described by Freeholder Chairman Mitchell was no more than a conspiracy hatched by Republicans and Democrats and intended to obstruct public scrutiny of a major public policy determination,” Donovan said. “These revelations go to the heart of my dispute with some members of my own party. I have made it clear that I will not tolerate the same political practices which dominated County government prior to my election. I campaigned on that pledge and I am committed to keeping that pledge. Chairman Yudin should be focused on building our party’s political and financial base and not engaging in a political conspiracy with an incumbent Democrat Freeholder. Chairman Yudin’s actions raise serious questions regarding his ability to be the political leader of our party.
“There is no place in government or politics for that matter, for the kind of “corruption” and clear conflicts described in these e-mails. “