Charges released in SWAT scandal The nine officers not named; possible separate investigation going on

Hoboken city officials released the charges facing police officers involved in the Hooters debacle last week; however, they could not release the names of the officers.

Nine officers were listed and all of the charges are administrative. There are no criminal charges at this time.

Director of Public Safety Bill Bergin said at an impromptu reading of a press release at City Hall last Wednesday that the punishments would range between 10-day suspension and termination of employment for those found guilty.

Bergin said, “We stated that [last Wednesday] the city hoped to be releasing the names of those individuals charged in connection with this matter, provided that the city had appropriate legal authority to do so … The release of individual names would not be in the city’s best interest at this time.”

Officials maintain that the names of the officers would compromise the investigation and subsequent hearings.

According to Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman, “We did speak to various individuals at the Hudson County Prosecutor’s office and various individuals at the N.J. Attorney General’s office,” but he said that he had not been contacted by the U.S. Attorney General’s office.

“It was our intention to release individual names,” said Kleinman, but there are “strict rules of confidentiality,” according to the state Attorney General’s guidelines. “We don’t want to be facing any litigation over this,” added Kleinman.

The charges stem from two trips by the Hoboken SWAT team to Louisiana in 2005 and 2006 to assist in post-Katrina hurricane relief. Compromising photos from the 2006 trip were leaked after five Latino officers filed a lawsuit against their boss, Lt. Angelo Andriani, accusing him of using racial slurs and other improprieties.

Lt. Andriani has been suspended with pay, his lawyer said last week in the local daily newspaper.

The investigation was conducted by David Corrigan, the city’s labor counsel.

Louis Zayas, lawyer for the five officers who filed the original complaint, called the investigation “a sham” since Corrigan is employed by the city. They requested his removal from the investigation but were denied.

“If the city was genuinely concerned… you don’t hire one of your own lawyers to conduct the investigation,” said Zayas in an interview last week.

Officials could not comment whether Police Chief Dr. Carmen LaBruno was included in the investigation or whether he faces any disciplinary action as a result.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Kleinman was asked whether LaBruno had resigned, Kleinman said, “If Chief LaBruno has resigned, I have not seen it.”

Mark Rufolo, LaBruno’s lawyer, could not say whether LaBruno was implicated in the investigation, but Rufolo did say that “[LaBruno] has cooperated with the investigation.”

Bigger fish to fry

Bergin said in his statement, “Please be advised that charges against additional police and civilian employees remain under review, since additional information relevant to this matter has been received in recent days and we are consulting with law enforcement agencies outside of Hoboken regarding the appropriate manner in which to proceed with respect to those individuals.”

The review of other officers includes the misappropriation of SWAT funds by the police department, possibly used to pay for LaBruno to go on the trips.

According to Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, the alleged misuse of funds is under review by the city of Hoboken.

DeFazio said, “[The SWAT funds] are part and parcel of the review.”

“That’s one of the things,” he said.

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office also conducted an investigation at the same time that the city conducted their review. In February, it was determined by the prosecutor’s office that there were no criminal charges as a result of the investigation, however there were suggestions with regards to administrative policies, according to a city source.

Officials would not say whether or not the law enforcement agencies they were dealing with included the FBI. Bergin said in a subsequent interview, “That is a general statement that keeps the door open for us.

Added Bergin, “There are some very, very critical things still going on.”

No names, but charges

According to the statement prepared by the city, Officers No. 1 through 3 were charged with five violations of the Administrative Code and five departmental violations regarding improper conduct at a Hooters in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and failure to report the improper conduct; Officer No. 4 was also charged with the same five administrative and departmental violations, but not the failure to report; Officer No. 5 was charged with five administrative violations, eight departmental violations, neither having to do with the trip, and failure to report; Officer No. 6 was charged with five administrative violations, eight departmental violations, not in connection with the trips, failure to report, and use of derogatory language; Officer No. 7 was charged with five administrative violations, eight departmental violations, not in connection with the trips, use of derogatory language, improper conduct at the Hooters restaurant, and failure to report; Officer No. 8 was charged with five administrative violations, eight departmental violations, not in connection with the trips, use of derogatory language, failure to report, and additional misconduct; Officer No. 9 was charged with five administrative violations, eight departmental violations, both in connection with the trips as well as the Hooters restaurant, and various other acts of misconduct on numerous occasions.

Zayas said the charges against his defendants are designed “to retaliate against the individuals who brought this information to light.”

The charges against the nine officers have been filed; as a result the hearings are scheduled to begin within 30 days. The city hopes to begin the hearings in a few weeks, however the process could be delayed due to the defendants making discovery request, which would then lead to the city requiring additional time to provide them with the information they need for their defense.

Council wants information

At the City Council meeting last Wednesday night, some council members voiced their displeasure in not being informed about the SWAT investigation situation before the press was.

The issue came up when Councilwoman Beth Mason questioned City Labor Counsel David Corrigan’s $9,500 legal fees appearing as a claim before the council. The council must vote on individual claims until the budget is complete.

Mason wanted to know if Corrigan’s fees were from the investigation. “I am hesitant to pay bills on something that the press seems to find about before we do,” said Mason.

“What does that have to do with paying the bill?” asked Councilwoman Terry LaBruno.

Councilman Peter Cammarano, who said he read the same news reports and questioned their accuracy, asked Kleinman whether the council should go into closed session to discuss the matter.

“This is a white-hot matter, peoples jobs are on the line,” Cammarano said.

Kleinman insisted he could not give them any more information than was in the report.

“I’d be more than happy to give you the report, but I’m certainly not going to do it or discuss it today without getting permission from the Hudson County prosecutor or the Attorney General’s office,” Kleinman said. “If we say the wrong thing, then people who may deserve to get disciplined may not be disciplined.”

Bergin attempted to read the statement to the council but was denied. He was apologetic that the council had not received the information earlier.

Kleinman took responsibility for the mishap, saying that he thought the council would receive the report “contemporaneously.”

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