GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (September 22, 2022)--We submitted another OPRA pertaining to the alleged theft of property by a Public Works employee in June. Besides that crime, we recently heard that the same individual allegedly purchased tires for a family member's pickup truck using a City credit card.
In response to our request, Acting Gloucester City Administrator/Police Chief Brian Morrell said, once again, "The matter is under investigation."
William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet
Trying to find out what is happening in Gloucester City at times is like pulling teeth. Take for example this story about a Public Works employee who allegedly stole equipment from that department and got caught.
June 29 or thereabout we received a phone call from a reliable source who said, “A Public Works supervisor (name omitted) over the years has been stealing equipment from that department and got caught.” When asked how many items did he allegedly steal, our source said, “I was told if he was prosecuted the amount of items that were taken would send him away for a long time.”
We originally asked Gloucester City Police Department spokesman Lt. Jason Flood for the information via an email, “I am looking into a unconfirmed report of a supervisor/city employee/retired city employee stealing auto parts from vehicles stored at the Public Works property or at some other site. Can you tell me if the police have investigated or are investigating a theft of property by a city employee in the past week or 10 days?(Date of email July 4, 2022).
His response was; “Bill, an OPRA request is required for this. Have a good day, Jason. “
Several days later on July 7, 2022 we submitted the following OPRA via email to Vanessa Little (nee Parent)
Background: I have been told that a supervisor/city employee at the Public Works Department has removed auto parts and other equipment from the compound with out permission.
Records requested: 1. All police reports generated as a result of this incident. 2. Information of the circumstances immediately surrounding the arrest, including but not limited to the time and place of the arrest and the investigation leading up to the arrest. 3. Information as to circumstances surrounding bail, whether it was posted and the amount thereof.
The response from the acting City Administrator/Chief of Police Brian Morrell, “This matter is under investigation.”
Working on other articles we pushed this story aside. August 3 we received an anonymous typed letter via regular mail that mentioned the alleged theft at the Public Works Department, and some other topics.
“Rumors are that a public works supervisor was suspended while an investigation is being conducted into the accusation that he stole items from the public works department. Supposedly he was using a city account to order auto parts for a member of his family. And, he also was allegedly stealing other equipment from the department.Police arrested the suspect at the Proprietors Park/Freedom Pier. He was placed in a police car and the car drove away. Shortly thereafter a public works truck appeared and a supervisor got out and into the vehicle the suspect was driving.”
A few days later, when we were out walking, a Public Works employee approached us and said the individual being investigated has retired.
If this situation happened under Police Chief Earl Moore, Police Chief Farrell, Chief Howarth, Chief Johnson, Chief Crothers or Chief Berglund the press would have been kept informed about the outcome of a crime investigation involving a city employee. No OPRA request needed. The same with former City Administrator Jack Lipsett, he was always forthright and cooperative.
But, that was yesterday, and this is today.
That cooperation between the press and the police doesn’t exist in 2022. Sadly under this administration and this police chief residents have been kept in the dark about the crime problems in our city. The weekly Crime Report was stopped two or three years ago. The excuse given, it takes too much time.
The Fire Department is no different. Sometime ago we asked for a list of their weekly fire calls. We were told that our request would be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), specifically the Privacy Rule. We suggested not to use the exact location of the fire or the name of the property owner. Instead, just identify the fire by the unit block and street name. Nope, that would take too much time and preparation, was the response we received from Fire Department spokesperson McNutt, now retired.
When Earl Fowler, now deceased, was in charge of the Gloucester City Fire Department we received a report every week that listed what calls the fire department made over the past seven days and their location.
August 17 we submitted another OPRA pertaining to the alleged crime at the Public Works Department.
If we get an answer you’ll be the first to know.
For the record, we have never had a problem with Vanessa Little, the City's municipal clerk and custodian of records. She has always been cooperative and helpful.