Lawyers, Secaucus officials meet today to weigh firefighters’ fate

SECAUCUS – The Secaucus Town Council will today meet to discuss the results of an eight-month independent inquiry into a 2004 harassment incident that allegedly involved three members of the town’s Volunteer Fire Department.
Present at the closed-door caucus session, scheduled for 4:30 p.m., will be attorney Edward DePascale, of McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney, who conducted the inquiry and Town Attorney Anthony D’Elia. Lawyers from the New Jersey Commission on Civil Rights are also expected to participate in the meeting.
Town officials recently received the results of DePascale’s inquiry, which are summarized in a confidential six-page report that includes several supporting documents.
Under the leadership of Mayor Michael Gonnelli, the Town Council commissioned the inquiry in May of last year to examine in incidents surrounding a notorious string of incidents involving members of the Volunteer Fire Department and a gay couple who lived on Schopmann Drive, next to the North End firehouse.
The couple said a handful of firefighters subjected them to violent threats and other forms of anti-gay harassment during the two years they lived on Schopmann.
The couple ultimately filed a civil lawsuit against Secaucus. The town lost the suit in 2008 and its insurers wound up paying millions of dollars to the plaintiffs.
Three firefighters who were implicated in the harassment later resigned from the Fire Department. However the men and their allies have lobbied for reinstatement ever since Gonnelli, a fellow firefighter, took over as mayor in Jan. 2010.
Secaucus hired the law firm of McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney to investigate whether the ex-firefighters – Charles F. Snyder, Charles T. Snyder, and Charles Mutschler – can be reinstated to the department. The fate of the former firefighters could hinge on what’s written in the report.
DePascale’s findings have yet to be made public. – E. Assata Wright

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