Secret racist tapes leaked — Clark, NJ mayor is asked to resign
CLARK — Gov. Phil Murphy and the mayor of Plainfield are calling on Clark Township Mayor Sal Bonaccorso to resign after secret recordings caught racist and sexist remarks on tape.
In a whistleblower lawsuit, police Lt. Antonio Manata claimed to have recorded Mayor Bonaccorso, the Clark police chief, and an internal affairs supervisor. The tapes, first published by NJ.com, include a myriad of racial slurs, comments, and misogynistic remarks.
The recordings are publicly available on YouTube. They include disturbing language, including the N-word, "spooks," and other slurs.
Adding to the controversy, Clark reportedly agreed to pay Manata $400,000 to turn over the tapes and not go public.
Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp, who is Black, told New Jersey 101.5 he was offended by the racist and misogynistic remarks. He called them "astounding" and "reprehensible."
Bonaccorso did not return New Jersey 101.5's request for comment. NJ.com reported that he repeatedly declined to listen to the recording and said only that he could not "recall" using offensive language.
Mapp believes it's clearly Bonaccorso's voice on tape. The fellow Union County mayor thinks it's time for his Clark counterpart to step down.
"I found that in this day and age for a mayor of a city to be echoing the comments that he did, the racist as well as misogynistic comments, I found that to be very disturbing," Mapp, a Democrat, said. "And I would hope that the good people of Clark would respond and take action that could lead to his removal from office, quite frankly. He doesn't deserve to be in public office."
The secret tapes reference a 2017 incident at Arthur L. Johnson High School. A black puppet was left hanging by a string for the Plainfield girls basketball team before a game against Clark.
Just days after the image garnered public outrage on Facebook, Mayor Bonaccorso, a Republican, went to the Plainfield City Council to formally apologize.
"I don't know all the details of it, but what I'm here to say is for who that offended, the people of your team, your city and your school district, I, the Township Council, and the people of Clark do humbly apologize," Bonaccorso said, according to MyCentraljersey.
In the recording from July 20, 2019, a voice identified by the whistleblower as Bonaccorso's recalls his perspective of events. A transcript of the conversation is below.
"What are the ropes for?"
"We f--king hang the spooks up there."
"So the A.L.J incident all over again."
"That was such [expletive] bulls--t"
"That was f--king stone bulls--t"
"The worst part about it was the teachers [inaudible] it."
"How about I had to go to the Plainfield [expletive] council meeting in front of a room full of them and get up and talk about it?"
Currently serving his third term, Mapp remembers the incident and subsequent apology well. But in light of the recent allegations against Bonaccorso, Mapp says the apology now rings hollow.
"Clearly, his comments at the time were not genuine," Mapp said.
While Plainfield's largest demographic is Hispanic, the recent US Census found nearly 40% of its population is Black. Meantime, Clark is 92% white with less than 2% of its residents identifying as Black.
Despite recent events, Mapp said he doesn't want to generalize Clark's residents. Still, he noted Bonaccorso has gained support to serve as the township's mayor for over 20 years.
"I am concerned that there might be an attitude within the Clark PD that causes them to maybe profile and target Black people when they come through the township of Clark," Mapp said. "And that the mayor was a part of those conversations was very disturbing."
Murphy is also calling on Bonaccorso to resign.
“Governor Murphy is deeply disturbed by these allegations, both regarding the hateful language and subsequent misappropriation of municipal resources aimed at a misguided attempt to obscure the truth,” spokeswoman Alyana Post said. ”There is no place in government or law enforcement for these unacceptable words and actions.”
It's been nearly two years since the Union County Prosecutor's Office started a probe into the Clark Township Police Department. The state Attorney General's Office and county prosecutors are promising a report amid credible misconduct allegations.
"I would hope that the investigation will lead to the truth and that those who were party to this behavior will be held accountable," said Mapp.