Township Municipal Clerk Colleen Eckert has been placed on paid administrative leave after a filing by federal prosecutors revealed that she allegedly confessed to the use of racial slurs toward a real estate developer.
Eckert’s alleged conduct was included in a recent court filing in an ongoing case surrounding former township Police Chief and Township Administrator Frank Nucera. Nucera is currently facing hate crime charges for the beating of a Trenton teenager at the Ramada Inn in September 2016. Prosecutors allege that Nucera used excessive force in the incident, which is being described as racially-driven, since the handcuffed teenager was an African-American.
According to the court filing, Eckert admitted in an interview with the FBI that she, Nucera and former Chief Financial Officer David Kocian often used racial slurs in reference to a real estate developer who would visit the municipal building to file documents. Their behavior was described as a “joke.”
During the Oct. 9 township committee meeting, Mayor Stephen Benowitz gave a statement in response to the recent reports.
“The township takes the recent reporting of the statements attributed to two former and one current township employee very seriously,” Benowitz said. “To that end, the township has placed Clerk Colleen Eckert on paid administrative leave and is investigating the matter.”
Benowitz went on to say that the first time the township was made aware of Eckert’s alleged conduct was during the afternoon of Oct. 5 and immediately placed her on administrative leave as a result.
Although the mayor was summoned to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in Trenton last January in regard to Nucera investigation, he said he was not made aware of any allegations against other township employees.
“In all circumstances, we have acted immediately upon learning any new information, and we have been as transparent as possible given the delicate legal matters at hand with the public,” Benowitz said.
As a result of these latest allegations, Benowitz added that the township will be conducting a full internal evaluation of all current departments and staff.
“To be clear, the township will not tolerate discrimination, hate speech, harassment, and all racist, ethnic, homophobic, and sexist language and actions,” Benowitz said. “These things do not represent who we are as a township and will not be tolerated in any way by any representative of the township.”