Town officials are bracing themselves for the fallout looming from another claim of an unfair labor practice filed by by a current police department employee. Once again, taxpayer dollars are being used to defend the alleged corrupt and retaliatory actions of town officials towards employee(s) attempting to root out the corruption.
The following story was posted on November 22, 2011. History has a bad habit of repeating itself within the Westfield Police Department.
The common denominators of the alleged corruption equation? Westfield Police Chief Wayman, former Police Chief John Parizeau, Town Administrator Jim Gildea, Mayor Andy Skibitsky.
NOTE: The following newspaper article contains photos not affiliated with the story originally appearing in the September 22, 2011 Westfield Leader newspaper. The photos were added by TFoTM to identify town officials referenced in the story. The above title of this blog was also added by TFoTM.
Personnel Files Detail Disciplinary Action on Kasko, WPD Allegations
By LAUREN S. BARR
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
WESTFIELD — At the August meeting of the Westfield Town Council, Mayor Andy Skibitsky called on
Independent Third Ward Town Council candidate Greg Kasko to publicly release a report by now-retired Summit Police Chief Robert Lucid regarding a disciplinary matter that preceded Mr. Kasko’s retirement from the Westfield Police Department (WPD).
The Westfield Leader/Times obtained this report through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), along with two other disciplinary hearing reports during Mr. Kasko’s employ, Mr. Kasko’s settlement agreement with the town following a lawsuit and, with Mr. Kasko’s written permission, his entire personnel file. A request for Mr. Kasko’s Internal Affairs file was denied by the town, as it is exempt from OPRA under state statute.
Mayor Skibitsky told The Leader/Times that he called for Mr. Kasko to release the report because he is running for office and “the public should know.” The mayor said Mr. Kasko stands up at meetings and speaks “lies and (makes) innuendos, especially about our employees,” adding that he does not “know how (Kasko) can talk about honesty and not release the report.” He also said that he previously advised Mr. Kasko to go to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office if he believes there is any wrongdoing in the police department.
|Town Administrator Jim Gildea|
Mr. Gildea, as his superior, and publicly criticizing the chief, and received a four-day suspension. The hearing
|Police Chief John M. Parizeau|
In May 2006 another hearing was held in which Mr. Kasko was charged with and found guilty of sleeping while on duty and failure to back up another officer. He received a six-day unpaid suspension. Mr. Kasko was again represented by Mr. Neals, and Westfield Chief of Police John Parizeau served as the hearing officer.
In October of 2006 another disciplinary hearing was held where Mr. Kasko was charged with lying under oath during his May departmental hearing and filing untrue written reports during the investigation.
According to the Lucid report, after Mr. Kasko was found sleeping on duty, Westfield Police Department Captain David Wayman met with Mr. Kasko, and unbeknownst to Mr. Kasko, taperecorded the conversation. Mr. Kasko said while under oath and in written letters to Chief Parizeau that his request for a representative from the Policeman’s Benevolent Association (PBA) was denied to him by Captain Wayman. However, according to Chief Lucid, at no time in the tape recording did Mr. Kasko request a PBA representative.
Additionally, Mr. Kasko was charged with lying at his October hearing when he stated that he moved his patrol car to aid another officer, and returned to his post at Fairview Cemetery after he heard a different officer respond. According to testimony and GPS documentation provided by Chief Parizeau, Mr. Kasko’s car was never moved.
Mr. Kasko told The Leader/Times, “I was not sleeping” while on duty. He provided The Leader/Times with a copy of his Verizon wireless bill from the date in question, which shows outgoing calls at 1:15 a.m. and
1:27 a.m. to a phone number, which Mr. Kasko identifies as Officer Robert Riley. According to the Lucid report, it was around 1:15 a.m. that the other officer requested backup, which Mr. Kasko was found guilty of failing to provide, and Mr. Kasko was found sleeping by Sergeant Todd Earl at approximately 1:25 a.m. According to the police car’s GPS system, his patrol car did not move between 12:42 a.m. and 1:26 a.m.
Chief Lucid found Mr. Kasko guilty and termination was recommended. According to Chief Lucid, “The issue of credibility, of lying during a hearing or trial, has long been seen as a serious, even fatal, violation of the standards of government employees and law enforcement officers in particular.”
Mr. Kasko’s personnel file contained all of his performance evaluations during his tenure at WPD, in which he received “good” and “very good” evaluations based on a point system, which varied from year to year. He received several Certificates of Merit for his police work in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1999. In 2002, there is a note that an incident occurred where Mr. Kasko failed to back up another officer on a motor vehicle stop, but the review states that it was a case of confusion. In 2003, his review states that Mr. Kasko, “needs little direct supervision.”
According to Mr. Kasko, in the fall of 2005, he filed a lawsuit against the Town of Westfield, which he said alleged that the town violated “my freedom of speech right” and that Mr. Gildea “violated my protection under the whistle blower” regulations. According to Mr. Kasko, when he went to see Mr. Gildea in 2004, he went to report his knowledge of “illegal” criminal-history checks being run on residents who were speaking out against the proposed parking decks. Mr. Kasko said during his hearings that the disciplinary charges that were brought against him were retaliation for his lawsuit, statements he still continues to stand by. He told The Leader/Times that, “nobody’s right to report corruption should be silenced.”
Under his settlement agreement with the town, dated February 6, 2007, Mr. Kasko resigned from his employment, and agreed that “he will not, thereafter, seek employment with the town in any capacity.” The town agreed to withdraw the disciplinary action as laid out in Chief Lucid’s report, without prejudice, and allow Mr. Kasko to remain on the town payroll until November 30, 2007, which permitted him to retire with 20 years in the state pension system. Retirement at 20 years does not entitle an officer to retain his or her health benefits.
According to Mr. Gildea, the town chose to offer Mr. Kasko a settlement following Chief Lucid’s recommendations as the town wanted to ensure that Mr. Kasko would never again be employed by the town.
Mr. Kasko told The Leader/Times that, “After consultation with my attorney and my immediate family, I
decided to accept the agreement...I did not feel that I could continue to work under the current conditions at
the WPD.” He said his settlement had “nothing to do with guilt or innocence,” but rather protection of his
family’s financial well-being. Mr. Kasko said he believes, on advice from his attorney, that he would have prevailed in his lawsuit against the town, and could have saved his job.
Mr. Kasko also told The Leader/Times that he witnessed Chief Tracy ask a dispatcher to run a DMV check on Sara Strohecker Clarkson following a letter to the editor by her in The Leader/Times. He also said resident John Blake approached him at his home to inquire as to whether he knew anything about criminal - history checks being run. Mr. Kasko went on to say that when he read in the June 10, 2004 Leader/Times Chief Tracy’s explanation of seeing James Abate’s (http://07090.blogspot.com/2010/12/arrest-of-out-spoken-citizen_20.html) name on the warrant list and arresting him during a town council meeting, “it was a lie.” According to Mr. Kasko, the “chief just doesn’t engage himself in looking at the warrant list.” He cited other incidents of people with outstanding warrants meeting with the chief and not being arrested.
Mr. Kasko also provided, through his attorney, an audit report from the New Jersey State Police of the WPD computer system. In the report, it states that “a total number of 349 inquiries were checked in Computerized Criminal History (CCH) with nine minor discrepancies (eight without a case number; one operator ID didn’t match receiving agent).” The document was provided to Mr. Kasko’s attorney during his lawsuit as part of the discovery process given Mr. Kasko’s allegations of improper use of the CCH system by Chief Tracy.
During an interview with The Leader/Times in August 2004 and phone call to publisher Horace Corbin,
Chief Tracy made reference to having “files” on Leader/Times staff members and members of the group
WECARE who were opposing the development of the proposed parking decks. OPRA requests to the State Police by The Leader/Times, and a subsequent appeal to the Government Records Council, seeking information as to whether or not criminalhistory checks had been run on residents, were denied as the records are exempt from disclosure under OPRA.
Current WPD Chief Parizeau told The Leader/Times that it is his understanding that Mr. Kasko made allegations that someone was running illegal checks, and that while Chief Tracy asked for proof, Mr. Kasko never supplied any. Chief Parizeau said the State Police audits every municipality computer system every two years. He said if there had been any improper or illegal checks, “it would have been discovered by the State Police and they would have made an issue out of it.” He said that over the years, police officers in New Jersey have been arrested for running inappropriate criminal-history checks.
Chief Parizeau said when the state comes in to audit the system and finds a discrepancy, which is typically a user error, they then manually review the case file; “they do not let anything go by.” He added that it is common for there to be a handful of errors during usage of the system and thought that nine errors found, and another error regarding a missing person file, was actually a low error ratio for the twoyear period. Chief Parizeau also said that over the years, the state police have continued to make the system more exact to prevent errors and are quite strict about how they expect the files to be maintained and entered.
Chief Parizeau added that police are permitted to run license-plate checks on a random basis and that if there are no outstanding issues, the computer system only says such and does not provide a detailed driving history.