No explanation for reasons behind latest NJ police department takeover
SOUTH BOUND BROOK — The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office has taken control of a local police department but no one is saying why.
The South Bound Brook Borough Council voted to approve the takeover of its own police department at an emergency meeting Tuesday night. Any debate over the measure took place in an executive session.
As of Wednesday, Chief of County Detectives John Fodor with the prosecutor's office is in charge. Fodor's official new role is Officer-in-Charge.
Under Fodor, "the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office will assign senior staff personnel to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the South Bound Brook Police Department which will include its systems and processes, in order to assist the Borough and to aid in the efficient functioning of the Police Department," according to Acting Somerset County Prosecutor Thomas Chirichella.
Deputy Chief Frank Roman with the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office informed New Jersey 101.5 that their office could not comment on personnel matters. After a request for any further details, Borough Clerk-Administrator Christina Fischer stated it was an "ongoing personnel issue."
An audio recording from the meeting reveals only Councilwoman Katie Kelly recused herself from voting on the measure. Other council members voted in approval.
Due to the short notice and nature of the meeting, Borough Attorney Bob Smith said he was required to explain its urgency.
"This is involving a personnel matter and this is the sort of thing that developed very quickly and it's the sort of thing that requires a decision from the council in less time than is usually provided on a regular meeting schedule," said Smith before council went into the executive session.
After the council returned, one New Brunswick resident questioned why the takeover was necessary. Smith responded by saying he could not "by law" share any details, though he noted was "not just trying to be cagey."
The resident then asked Council President Richard Eickhorst if he was still "adamant in thinking that police misconduct should remain secret."
"Yes, in a way," Eickhorst said. The council president also serves as police commissioner.
Eickhorst did not respond to a request for comment.
The status of South Bound Brook police chief Frederick Fittin is also unknown. Fittin was sworn in as chief this January after 21 years with the department.
Tuesday night's emergency meeting was the second one this month for South Bound Brook. The first came the evening of March 14, at which the council reportedly voted to fire Officer Paul Romano. He has filed a notice of intent to appeal.
This is not the first time a police department has lost control of itself. The Union County Prosecutor's Office stepped in to take over the Clark Police Department in 2020 amid credible allegations of misconduct, according to NJ.com.