Secaucus to withhold results of independent inquiry into anti-gay harassment
After a 60-minute closed session Tuesday to discuss the fate of three ex-firefighters who resigned from the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department in 2008 under a cloud of controversy, the Town Council will meet with the men on Feb. 7 to discuss whether or not they can be reinstated to the department, according to Town Attorney Anthony D’Elia.
The council will also discuss with the men the results of a seven-month independent inquiry into a 2004 harassment incident that led to the firefighters’ resignation.
On Tues., Feb. 1 the council met with Edward DePascale, an attorney who conducted the inquiry, and lawyers from the New Jersey Commission on Civil Rights.
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 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 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 DePascale, of 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, but DePascale’s findings have not been made public.
Arguing that the report includes sensitive personnel matters, D’Elia said after Tuesday’s caucus that the report will not be made public without the explicit consent of the three firefighters.
When the inquiry was commissioned last year, Mayor Gonnelli vowed the investigation and its findings would be transparent.
“I think it is an insult to the citizens of Secaucus that they are hiding a report that the citizens of Secaucus paid for with their tax money, said Neil Mullin, one of the attorneys who represented the couple in their civil lawsuit, Wednesday. “This is not just a personnel issue. This is a public safety issue.”
CLAWS in need of volunteers
The Closter Animal Welfare Society (CLAWS) is in need of volunteers to help at their adoption centers at PetSMART locations in Secaucus and North Bergen. CLAWS volunteers help feed, clean, and socialize cats and kittens awaiting adoption. Volunteers must be at least 18 and must be able to commit to a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. For more information, please call (201) 768-0200 or visit the web site at www.clawsadopt.org. Prospective volunteers can fill out the volunteer application posted on the web site.
Ladies Auxiliary to host pancake breakfast fundraiser, membership drive
On Sun., Feb. 13 from 8 a.m. until noon the Ladies Auxiliary of the Secaucus Exempt Firemen’s Association will hold a breakfast fundraiser at Washington Hook and Ladder at 272 County Ave.
Founded in 1934, the Ladies Auxiliary has long been a social and charitable organization with ties to the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department. The organization is currently raising money for the New Jersey Firemen’s Home, a retirement and nursing facility for former paid and volunteer firefighters in Boonton. The home, which first opened its doors in 1898, houses about 60 to 70 elderly residents and is currently undergoing renovations to its 112-year-old building.
In the past, money raised in Secaucus through Ladies Auxiliary fundraisers has been donated to the home to purchase such items as new bedspreads or to help with building improvements.
The auxiliary is also trying to attract new members to its organization.
Tickets to the Feb. 13 pancake breakfast are $10 for adults and $5 for children. To purchase tickets in advance, call Jane Olsen at (201) 330-9147.
Meadowlands Liberty Convention & Visitors Bureau gets smart
The Meadowlands Liberty Convention & Visitors Bureau (MLCVB) has launched a new mobile website that gives visitors traveling to the region access to all of the hospitality components and attractions from the main website with an interface the bureau insists is easy to use.
The mobile website, which was developed by Mobi Manage, one of the leading developers in the travel and tourism industry, can be used by most smart phones available on the market.
“All indicators suggest that mobile web usage and advertising will overtake desktop in the coming years,” said Jim Kirkos, MLCVB President and CEO, in a release. “As the leading advocate for our region’s travel and tourism economy, it is essential that the MLCVB conveniently reaches and accommodates the maximum number of individuals interested in our region. Launching the mobile website ensures our ability to do so.”
The mobile website mirrors the look of the MLCVB’s website, www.mlcvb.com, ensuring familiarity and brand consistency for users. The same regional categories are featured on each site: hotels, attractions, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and transportation.
The Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau, a division of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber, is the comprehensive destination-marketing channel for travel to the metropolitan New Jersey region.