BREAKING: Secaucus council says firefighters not returning

SECAUCUS AND BEYOND — In a long awaited decision, the Secaucus Town Council announced Tuesday evening that three former members of the Volunteer Fire Department who resigned under a cloud of controversy in 2008 will not be reinstated.
The decision likely concludes one of the longest sagas in recent Secaucus history.
Reading from a prepared statement, Town Attorney Anthony D’Elia stated, “It is not in the best interest of the town to return [the firefighters] to their former post.”
The three firefighters – Charles F. Snyder, his son Charles T. Snyder, and Charles Mutschler – were apparently informed of the council’s decision Monday evening in a heated exchange that involved a handful of other members of the North End Firehouse that includes Engine Co. 2 and Rescue Co. 1.
The council reached the decision not to reinstate the men after receiving the results of a seven-month independent inquiry into a 2004 harassment incident that led to the firefighters’ resignation.
Under Gonnelli’s leadership, 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.
Although Snyder, Snyder, and Mutschler were never criminally charged in the incident, trial witnesses and police reports implicated the men in the harassment. Privately the trio have protested their innocence but have publicly refused on several occasions to tell police and other investigators who was responsible for the harassment. Under pressure, the three resigned from the fire department in August 2008.
However the men and their allies have lobbied for reinstatement ever since Gonnelli, a fellow firefighter, took over as mayor in Jan. 2010. Last year the Town council hired Edward DePascale, of the law firm of McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney, to investigate whether the men could be reinstated.
Upon learning earlier this week they would not be reinstated, the men contacted council members individually by phone or in person to plead their case, to no avail. – E. Assata Wright

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