While most of us were shivering in the cold and dark, a few public officials from North Jersey decided to use public generators for their own use, and could now possibly face charges.

In one case, a former Sussex County sheriff’s officer was caught with a generator that belonged to the county.

An investigation is underway to determine if criminal charges will be brought against a former Sussex County sheriff’s officer who was caught with a county-owned generator that he planned to use to power his house, a county prosecutor said Thursday.

Former Undersheriff George DeOld lost power at his home on Hibler Road in Green Township during Hurricane Sandy, and had another sheriff’s officer deliver of one of two emergency generators owned by the sheriff’s office to his home on Friday morning.

A resident noticed the generator being delivered, reported it and sheriff’s officers recovered it from DeOld’s home a short time later.

DeOld apologized and resigned from his $97,000-a-year post on Tuesday.

While acknowledging the seriousness of the case, First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said there were several factors that may sway investigators against bringing charges against the 64-year-old DeOld:

• He never used the generator and it was in his possession for only an hour before it was recovered by sheriff’s officers;
• The generator was not being used at the time and since it was purchased with SWAP fees it could only be used for the SWAP program;
• Prior to have it delivered to his home, DeOld checked with fellow officers to make sure the generator wasn’t going to be used.

Mueller also noted DeOld, who could face official misconduct and/or theft charges, has already lost his job due to the matter.

“His horribly poor decision to bring a county-owned generator onto his property cost him $97,000. That’s not an insignificant hit,” he said.

While much of North Haledon was without power immediately following Hurricane Sandy, both Mayor Randy George and Police Chief Robert Bracco were supplied borough-owned portable generators for their personal use, which is being investigated by the borough attorney.

George, the owner of an ice cream parlor in town, said he was given a portable generator by public works chief Bill Graham on Oct. 31, two days after Sandy roared through town and toppled trees and power lines. While all the other businesses along High Mountain Road were struggling without power, George plugged the town-owned generator in overnight to keep some of the refrigeration on, but later changed his mind and returned the machine the next morning.

“The superintendent [of public works] called me up and said he had a spare generator,” George said Monday. “It was a bad judgment call on my part because I realized that I shouldn’t have used it.”

George said he allowed Bracco to take a generator home the day after the storm to heat his house in Wayne. “I believe I’m authorized to do that,” George said, explaining that Bracco had been working round-the-clock in North Haledon since the storm hit. “He needed to go home and get some sleep, and get something to drink. He needed some down time.”

Bracco said he asked for the generator, which wasn’t being used because it served as a backup power for the municipal building, which didn’t lose electricity during the storm.

“Yes, I did take it. I asked for it,” Bracco said. “I don’t believe it was wrong. I had my 86-year-old mother at my house in Wayne with me and I had been working in North Haledon  for 24 hours. I didn’t have time go out and buy a generator.”

But Bracco said he reconsidered using the generator and brought it back the next day. In hindsight, he said, “it may not have been the wisest decision. So I brought it back the next day.”

George appeared before the Borough Council last Wednesday who then turned the matter over to the borough attorney, Michael DeMarco, who is checking to see if any laws were broken.

DeMarco did not return a phone call on Monday seeking comment.

Here’s the question I’d have for all three:

Are you not able to afford your own generators?

And in the case of all three, while they reconsidered using the generators they’d borrowed, don’t you feel some kind of punishment is in order for “abusing their power,” especially in light of the fact that so many of their constituents were in the dark?


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