Ordinance 2348, which deals with the organization of the Roselle Park Police Department (RPPD), was passed by a 5-1 vote during the February 2nd meeting of Mayor & Council with Councilman-At-Large Carl Hokanson being the dissenting vote. This came after discussions during the previous January 19th meeting where the ordinance was introduced and discussed.
During that meeting, Council-At-Large Hokanson asked if the ordinance came from the Police Chief or Public Safety Commission. Mayor Joseph Accardi said that the discussion started at a Public Safety meeting but was then brought up by members of council during a budget workshop.
4th Ward Councilman Modesto Miranda gave further explanation, “This comes from placing two (2) individuals without coming to a public safety meeting, which he [Police Chief Morrison] has the right and I don’t argue with that but . . . after two (2) weeks, these individuals will be getting paid for that position and we haven’t even started the budget and to me I think that’s very unfair.”
Council-At-Large Hokanson stated that he disagreed, “That’s like the Chief coming in here and telling us how to run council. He has the right to run his department just like we have the right to run Mayor & Council.”
“So what we’re saying is that he can promote without us voting?” Councilman Miranda asked, “Because that’s what it basically comes down to when it comes to a promotion.”
“He has the right to run his department the way he sees fit,” Council-At-Large responded.
Mayor Accardi added to the discussion by commenting, “I’m not taking a position one way or the other on this argument but [what] I am going to say is that Mayor & Council have the right to set up a table of organization which is what this [ordinance] is. The Chief runs the department day-to-day but the council has to provide proper directives with regard to a table of organization.”
Council-At-Large Hokanson commented, “I’m definitely going to be voting ‘no’ for this and I hope my colleagues take a strong look into it.”
2nd Ward Councilman Marc Caswell gave his thought on the subject, “In our discussion with it, this was a temporary stop-gap. It was not contemplated to be a permanent re-structuring.”
The Council-At-Large stated that he “I don’t see how in the wording that this can in any way, shape, or form be a temporary stop-gap . . . I don’t understand how you can pass an [ordinance] on a temporary status. This is going to be a change.”
Councilman Caswell remarked that there were discussions with the police chief at the public safety meeting that, due to budgetary concerns, a temporary issue like this had to be taken into account. He continued, “There’s pressure to be doing hiring at the Public Safety meetings which we feel also entails budgetary concerns so this was a temporary stop-gap so that we can discuss budgetary problems.”
When Council-At-Large Hokanson re-iterated that he felt the ordinance would be a permanent measure, 3rd Ward Councilwoman Tanya Torres said, “We can change it back. Just like we’re changing it tonight, we can change it back. I wouldn’t agree to it if it wasn’t a temporary solution.”
Councilman Miranda concluded, “My concern was that I understand he’s one lieutenant short and he needs an Administrative Lieutenant. You’re in law enforcement. I’m in law enforcement. We know what Administrative is; it’s clerical. The problem I have is that we have not even started the budget and these individuals, after two weeks, by contract, are going to get paid. So we’re talking close to $5,000 and we haven’t even started the budget. If he wanted to put somebody in that position without being compensated until we get the budget I don’t have a problem. My problem was that it’s compensated. I don’t ever interfere with people’s departments but I do interfere when it comes to budgetary and it comes to taxpayer’s money and that was my concern and this can be changed at any time.”
The vote was taken on the February 2nd meeting with no discussion. A copy of the ordinance can be viewed below: