Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 6
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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Borough Asks Prosecutor About Police Case Delays, Introduces Credit Card Fee

Dilshanie Perera

Characterizing the case involving three Borough police officers as “unusual” and “an anomaly” in terms of what they usually see, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini and Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Doris Galuchie met with Borough Council last Tuesday to explain how the case is progressing. Council also introduced an ordinance to charge a convenience fee for municipal transactions involving credit cards.

Members of Borough Council had been concerned with delays in the case because the officers had been suspended with pay since February of last year.

Following his indictment in September, Sergeant Kenneth Riley’s pay was stopped, while that of Patrolman William Perez ceased when he resigned in December, and Sergeant Kevin Creegan’s was suspended in January.

Council member Roger Martindell decried the fact that “as of mid-December, the Borough had spent over a quarter of a million dollars for police officers who weren’t working.”

In September, Mr. Riley was indicted by a County grand jury on six criminal charges related to allegedly accessing a police department video without prior authorization, and showing the footage to others. The Borough and County are no longer pursuing Mr. Perez’s involvement in the case following his resignation, and the full details concerning Mr. Creegan, who is facing an administrative hearing only, have yet to be released.

After praising the thorough investigation conducted by the Borough Police force regarding this case, Ms. Galuchie explained that proceedings were slowed because the grand jurors had a four-month span of jury duty where they heard the case once a week for about 12 weeks. “I know from your standpoint with the financial concerns, that it wasn’t quick … but I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, or if I would have had the police do anything differently,” she said.

Replying to Council President Andrew Koontz’s question as to what would merit a referral to the prosecutor’s office, Ms. Galuchie said, “If there’s any possibility there could be a criminal charge, they have to refer it to us.”

“I think that without having good communications between our department, your office, and us, misunderstandings arise. And they have in this case,” Mr. Martindell said, asking why the Borough had been told that the case would be resolved long before now.

Mr. Bocchini responded that from February to September of last year, “information was flowing to us, investigation was taking place, and we were waiting for more information,” hence the delay.

In other news, Borough Council debated charging a convenience fee for using a credit card in municipal transactions, at, for instance, the Spring Street Garage or Borough Hall.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi noted that the municipality had previously been paying the credit card fees “to the tune of $50,000 per year,” and couldn’t afford to continue that “in a budget year where things are tight.”

Council member Kevin Wilkes suggested creating an incentive for Smart Card usage, so there would be a “pathway to avoid the fee,” while Mr. Koontz likened a convenience charge at the garage to one at an ATM.

Council agreed to charge one dollar if the total amount of the credit card payment is between $1 and $50, two dollars if the transaction is between $51 and $100, three if between $101 and $150, four between $151 and $200, and $5 for amounts over $201.

Signs will be posted at the garage and other locations where fees may be incurred, pending final approval.

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