Probe into Secaucus gay-firefighter case still in attorney’s hands
Town officials said last week that they still have yet to receive a long anticipated report of a probe into a 2004 bias incident. The municipality had expected to receive the report last month.
In May 2010 the Town Council ordered an independent inquiry into the now-infamous incidents of anti-gay harassment in Secaucus that led to a multi-million-dollar lawsuit in 2008. The inquiry was led by attorney Edward DePascale of McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney.
Two former Secaucus residents, Peter DeVries and Timothy Carter, once lived next to the North End Fire House. They filed a harassment suit against Secaucus after enduring an alleged two years of harassment from a handful of firefighters.
The alleged harassment culminated on one night in April 2004, when according to the suit, anti-gay slurs and violent threats were yelled outside the couple’s house. One attacker allegedly threatened to kill them.
In 2008, a jury in Hudson County Superior Court awarded them $2.8 million, on top of another $2 million for legal fees.
The three former firefighters who were implicated in the harassment – but who were never charged with a crime, and who were not named in the couple’s lawsuit – resigned from the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department shortly after the trial ended. Since December 2009, however, the firefighters and their supporters have been lobbying for them to be reinstated.
Both supporters and critics of the men believe DePascale’s inquiry could either vindicate them – or prove their complicity in the harassment of Carter and DeVries.
Town Administrator David Drumeler said DePascale completed the bulk of his inquiry in early December and he now expects the town to get his written report sometime this month.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli has vowed to make DePascale’s report available to the public.
Once the municipality receives DePascale’s findings, however, it could still be several weeks before it’s released publically. The council will review it first, Drumeler said, and portions that deal with sensitive personnel matters may need to be redacted.
Secaucus Recreation Center wins design award
The Secaucus Recreation Center has, for years, been the subject of scorn and ridicule for its $12 million price tag and for its inability to meet its annual operating expenses.
But the beleaguered facility of Koelle Blvd. now has a reason to hold its head high.
Last week the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association – a nonprofit organization that promotes the parks and recreation industry and advocates public policy and stewardship of parks recreation, resource management, and leisure services – voted to give the recreation center its Class 1 Facility Design Award.
According to the association’s web site, the “excellence in design award is presented for excellence is design of completed recreation and park facilities intended for public use.” Facilities that were eligible for the 2011 award must have been completed between 2007 and 2008. The Secaucus Recreation Center was completed in 2008.
Design awards are given in categories based on the population of the municipality. The Class 1 award is given to facilities in towns with a population of 20,000 or fewer.
The Secaucus Recreation Center was designed by John Capazzi, a principal and architect with RSC Architects of Cliffside Park. The firm also designed the Culinary Arts Institute at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City and the Secaucus Public Library and Business Resource Center.
The New Jersey Recreation and Park Association has recognized outstanding contributions to the field of parks, recreation, leisure services, and natural resource management through its Annual Awards Program for the last three decades.
The organization will officially announce all of its 2011 award recipients at a ceremony in March.
State Senate passes bill that would require for-profit hospitals to open financial records
The New Jersey Senate passed on Jan. 6 legislation that would require for-profit hospitals to disclose financial information to the public, as is already required of nonprofit hospitals.
The legislation, S1468, passed almost exclusively along party lines by a vote of 24 to 14. Only one Republican broke party lines to support the bill.
The legislation sponsored by Senators Weinberg, Cunningham and Gordon, would require for-profit hospitals in New Jersey to disclose audited financial statements, investments and investors, compensation levels for executives, and payments made to affiliates.
According to the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), a union that represents 12,000 nurses and other health care workers in the Garden State, the legislation was drafted in response to concerns raised about whether public health care funds are diverted to finance excessive executive compensation, insider dealings with board members or affiliates or excessive profits at for-profit owners of community hospitals.
At present, non-profit hospitals must disclose most of their financial information to the public through various state and federal reports, while for-profits can keep most of their information hidden, even if they receive public funds and taxpayer dollars through charity care, Medicare, and Medicaid payments.
“The boards of for-profit hospitals are accountable first and foremost to the owners and investors, where the core objective is increasing the wealth of investors, and public disclosure requirements are far more limited,” said HPAE President Ann Twomey in a statement. “With five for-profit companies now running local hospitals, it is more important than ever to be able to track how patient care dollars are being spent. We’ve already seen examples where partners take millions in profits and fees while laying off staff and cutting services; where owners make large and secret contributions to lobbying efforts and where companies conduct lucrative dealings with their own affiliates. We applaud the NJ Senate vote to begin to impose reasonable transparency and accountability requirements on for-profits.”
Last year the limited liability corporation known as MHA, LLC, a group of private investors, bought Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus for $15 million plus a $2 million reserve. That hospital is now a for-profit entity.
And HUMC Holdco, LLC, a part owner of the Bayonne Medical Center, is now in the early stages of purchasing Hoboken University Medical Center.
The companion bill introduced in the State Assembly by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, A1523, has not yet come up for a vote before the Assembly’s Health and Senior Services Committee.
Bird walk in Secaucus
New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society will host a free two-hour guided nature walk at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m.
Participants will look for ravens, raptors, waterfowl on the Hackensack River, and other birds.
Participants should meet at the big parking lot by the Laurel Hill ball fields at 10 a.m. or at the first parking lot in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst at 9:20 a.m.
Check meadowblog.net for last-minute weather updates. Participants will have to sign a standard liability release for this event. To rsvp, contact Don Torino of the BCAS at email@example.com or at (201) 636-4022.