Verona Township attorney Michael Gannaio said at the Town Council meeting last night that he and Town Manager Joe Martin met with representatives of the Verona Police Department’s PBA Local 72 last week on resolving the Police Department’s technology problems.
Speaking in response to a question by Councilman Kevin Ryan, Gannaio termed the meeting “productive” and said that a draft of a memorandum of agreement was circulated. Gannaio said that he is waiting for the PBA’s lawyer to provide him with a memo elaborating on a few points and that, once the agreement is finalized, he will be providing a “complete account” of it.
In early July, the Verona Police Department’s PBA Local 72 took the highly unusual step of hiring a lawyer to file a complaint against the town. In a letter, Gina Mendola Longarzo, the lawyer representing the PBA, detailed six years of problems with the technology used in the department, including non-working handheld radios and patrol car video recorders, and the deliberate disabling of police car computer systems by the town’s IT staff. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by MyVeronaNJ.com, also said that Jeff Hayes, Verona’s director of IT, and his assistant, Michael McCormack, couldn’t add users to the Info-Cop computer system, forcing current Verona police officers to log in as retired officers. Hayes allegedly impeded efforts by Info-Cop’s support staff to fix the problem, even though Verona pays for that support.
The letter said that Hayes refused to work with a federal drug program to give Verona officers access to a key drug trafficking database, even though the sale and use of opiates has been a growing concern in town. It said the police cannot retrieve videos of witnesses and subjects themselves, but must go through Hayes, who allegedly watched some of them, including one concerning the sexual abuse of a child, even though he is not a police office. The letter also said that Martin threatened the police officers who brought their concerns to the lawyer.
In mid-August, there were indications that an agreement to resolve the problems had been reached between the town and the PBA. But neither the agreement nor a promised report from Gannaio on the matter have yet to materialize. The town attorney also said last night that there will be a special closed session of the Town Council tonight, October 7, to discuss personnel and legal matters. It is not known if this is in relation to the PBA complaint. The next regular Council meeting is Monday, October 20.