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Sayreville hires four police officers

SAYREVILLE – Four officers have been appointed to the Sayreville Police Department amid dissent from the Borough Council.

On June 26, the council voted 4-2 to pass resolutions appointing Joseph Bartlinski, Jamie Unkel and Patrick Brennan and 3-2 to pass a resolution appointing Charles Novak as police officers in the department.

Council President Daniel Buchanan and council members Victoria Kilpatrick, Ricci Melendez and Mary Novak voted yes on appointing Bartlinski, Unkel and Brennan. Councilmen Steven Grillo and Pat Lembo voted no.

Mary Novak recused herself from voting on appointing Charles Novak, who is her son, and was not on the dais when the vote was taken. The remaining council members did not change their votes on appointing Charles Novak.

According to borough officials, Charles Novak will receive a salary of $55,117, Bartlinski and Brennan will each receive a salary of $49,058 and Unkel will receive a salary of $43,000. The officers received different salaries based on certifications they have and their status in Sayreville’s police academy, officials said.

Each employment is effective July 3, pending successful completion of all pre-employment requirements.

The appointment of the four officers follows the council declaring five vacancies in the department at a special meeting on May 1. As with the vote on Bartlinski’s, Unkel’s and Brennan’s appointments, Buchanan, Kilpatrick, Melendez and Novak voted in favor of declaring the vacancies, while Grillo and Lembo opposed.

During the May 1 meeting, Police Chief John Zebrowski said the department seeks to have a total of 89 officers; at the time, the department had 86 officers, with impending vacancies on June 1 and July 1. According to Buchanan, the department had 92 officers in 2016.

Buchanan reasoned at a May 22 meeting that declaring the vacancies was necessary because the police department was understaffed. When questioned by Buchanan, Business Administrator Dan Frankel said the officers who were performing shift work on a May 19 road project were working overtime, for example.

The employment list used after the vacancies were declared, however, has been a source of concern for residents due to the presence of Novak’s son and Kilpatrick’s brother, and the absence of veterans. Grillo and Lembo cited these concerns in voting against declaring the vacancies.

Kilpatrick and Novak voted on declaring the vacancies at the May 1 meeting on the advice of Borough Attorney Michael DuPont, who said no conflict existed as long as their relatives were not financial dependents of theirs.

Another issue was if a newer employment list could have been used. Although borough labor attorney Bob Clarke stated that Sayreville had only one employment list for police officers during the May 1 meeting, Lembo said that there was a new hiring list during a May 22 meeting.

The new list, according to Grace Kelly of the Civil Service Commission, was issued on March 29. Although the list being used had expired, it was considered active until its disposition due date, which was July 1.

During the May 22 and June 12 meetings, motions were made to return the list currently being used and request the new list.

The motions received support from Grillo and Lembo, but were denied by Buchanan, Kilpatrick, Melendez and Novak. In voting no, the four council members cited potential legal issues and litigation if the list being used was returned, noting that letters had already been sent out to applicants.

At the June 26 meeting, Grillo and Lembo maintained their opposition to how the officers were being hired.

“I’ve voiced my concern over the transparency of this hiring process,” Grillo said. “[My vote] has nothing to do with the four folks that we met. They’re all quite professional [and] I’m sure they’ll serve with dignity and honor. I wish them the best in their pursuits, but I cannot vote yes for any of these candidates based on the discussions we’ve been having over the last two months.”

“[My vote] has nothing to do with the four candidates,” Lembo said. “I’m sure they’re all fine individuals [who] will serve [Sayreville] well. My issue is with the process, which I believe was unethical and in violation of borough ordinance.”

No members of the public commented on the issue during the June 26 meeting.

Contact Matthew Sockol@newspapermediagroup.com.

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