Rahway councilman Bobby Akbar has seemingly worked overtime to get himself embroiled in one bad situation after another. The rookie council member was recently suspended with pay from his teaching job when accusations came to light that he had made an inappropriate telephone call to a female member of the high school track team that he coaches. The young woman on the receiving end reported the incident to someone within the school system. The Rahway School Board immediately suspended Akbar with pay from his $55,000 fifth-grade teaching job which he had held for about 6 years, as well as any coaching duties he performed for the schools. A month long investigation by the Rahway Police Dept did not yield any charges nor would the Rahway police disclose the full nature of the probe. However, Akbar did officially resign from his teaching post with what could be called a "golden parachute" as the resignation will not take place officially until January of 2010 according to the school board assistant superintendent. Though it appears he will remain on the school system's payroll till January newspaper reports are offering conflicting reports of whether he will return to the classroom until the resignation takes effect, let's hope not.
But that is not all, just this past June Akbar pleaded guilty in municipal court to charges of disturbing the peace, to avoid being tried on domestic violence assault charges which involved a woman who was not his wife but rather a fellow Board of Ed employee. The incident which was said to have been actually witnessed by the police took place on school grounds and resulted in his being arrested. No details have actually been made public as to what transpired; New Jersey state law disallows such information being released in domestic violence situations to protect the victim. However, it is public knowledge that the other teacher involved was non-tenured and is no longer employed by the city and that Akbar was required to pay a $500 fine plus court costs because according to the prosecutor who handled the case he created a very dangerous condition by peeling out of the parking lot. It is anybody's guess how an assault charge as the result of a domestic violence incident, actually witnessed by law enforcement and sealed from public disclosure gets downgraded to a disturbing the peace violation for basically making noise while driving in an unsafe manner.
Supposedly these are not the only missteps the councilman has taken during the short time since winning the Nov. 08 election and last weeks resignation. It has been widely discussed in Rahway for months that he exhibited questionable and aggressive behavior toward one of the players he coached. Reportedly Akbar was witnessed by hundreds of Rahway High Football fans after a championship game on December 8th at Rutgers Stadium roughing up a player who did not perform up to his standard. School officials have admitted being aware of the incident but claimed they were powerless to do anything about it unless the youths parents complained, and apparently they did not.
Could it be that the passing of Akbar's "Glory Days" are taking their toll on this local high school sports hero as he makes the lonely pilgrimage everyone does deeper into his thirties? Are the throngs of admirers harder to come by so he seeks to satisfy his ego by exerting some sort of influence or force over those weaker than himself? Surely one does not resign from a well paying and what could be emotionally rewarding career position without a fight unless there was something that the accused didn't want the public to know about. And what of the school board? Are their hands so tied by the confines of tenure and labor union constraints that they are not willing to risk their collective necks by releasing an explanation of the suspension and are calling it a personnel matter?
Rahway Police Captain Joseph Mikajlo has confirmed that an investigation of the message incident has indeed taken place but that criminal charges have not been filed. One cannot help but question this outcome as so many of the key players are connected politically to one another. The Rahway council president, James Baker said he believes that the police chief can ensure that the investigation of the Akbar case can take place "without prejudice". Baker went on to say that he did not think that political affiliations would have any bearing on the police chief's duties or responsibilities and to "let the facts be as they may."
The fact that this is more than just political affiliations seem to have escaped Council President Baker; the fact is that there are conflicts here all around. For starters Mr. Akbar's Democratic associates on the town council should be asking for his resignation, in fact they are a couple of months late. After the first public altercation at the football game he probably should never have been sworn into office at all. When he was arrested and plead guilty he should have been asked for his resignation by his peers on the council, yet for some odd reason they let him slide. Like themselves when he took his oath of office he promised to uphold the laws of his town, his county, his state and his country, by virtue of ignoring his transgressions they too have broken their solemn oath to the voters, just as Mr. Akbar did when he committed the acts.
The Chief of Police resides in Rahway and is an elected official as he was elected to the position of District Leader of the Democratic Party, a position also enjoyed by Akbar and Baker as well. For those who are involved in the workings of the local municipal political committee scene the conflict is clear as the nose on ones face. How can the chief be objective when investigating someone that he probably raised money for and campaigned for, as well as someone he probably broke bread with at a political event or two.
The time has come for the governing body of Rahway who are all Democrats to let Bobby Akbar know that they are done putting up with his antics and expect him to immediately resign his position on the town council. Further, because of the sheer number and type of incidents that have taken place as well as the close relationships of the council, the Board of Education members who are known to work on political campaigns and some city employees it is time that outside authorities look into these matters. It would appear that the State Attorney General's office should be setting up shop in Rahway and conducting investigations into the Akbar incidents and how they were handled from start to finish before too much of the dust settles.