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Demoted Chief's Lawyer Vows Fight

He called the Matawan Borough Council's action against the police department's first African-American chief "outrageous."

The lawyer for former Matawan Police Chief James Alston called his demotion "outrageous" Tuesday and vowed to challenge it in the courts. Attorney David Corrigan said the administrative case against Alston originated from accusations in 2010 by a convicted felon who had been arrested by the former chief on drug charges.

"There was an individual by the name of Anthony Gray; he is a convicted felon. James Alston arrested him in the past on drug charges," Corrigan said. "Gray falsely stated that Alston had acted improperly. . .The matter was investigated by the [Monmouth County] Prosecutor's Office. The Prosecutor's office found that there was no merit to the charge."

The Borough of Matawan proceeded with their own investigation in the form of an administrative hearing, Borough Attorney Pasqual Menna said during a .

"The Borough of Matawan has conducted an investigation pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act and pursuant to the guidelines of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. Those procedures were followed and it is also a personnel procedure," Menna said.

According to Mayor Paul Buccellato, the resolution only affirms the findings of the administrative hearing, which was heard by administrative officer Richard Gantner of Hillsboro.

Corrigan believes that the manner in which the Borough handled the situation was unfair. He said Gantner has handled several cases for the Borough of Matawan law firm and that Matawan officials did not accept Corrigan's request to have a impartial judge hear the case.

"We thought if they were genuinely interested in having a fair hearing, they would have appointed a retired Superior Court judge whose integrity was impeccable," Corrigan said. "I believe it demonstrates their bias against Chief Alston, who is nothing less than a professional police officer. He has over thirty years of service."

According to Corrigan and Alston, neither of them have received notification of the resolution in any manner, including legal documents, phone calls or a copy of the resolution.

"I have not seen, or been informed of any resolution, or been given any documentation from the Borough of Matawan," Alston said.

Alston feels the Borough's decision dates back much further than the June 2010 incident on Orchard Street, involving Gray. "The situation started before last June. It actually started back in 2009," he said.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Newark, responding last month to a complaint filed by Alston, stated that during Alston's employment with the Borough of Matawan he has been "subjected to disparate and less favorable treatment based on his race and age."

The EEOC document, issued June 14, states that when Alston was promoted to chief of police in July 2008, he "was not offered the same contract terms and conditions as the previous individuals holding that position, who were not African American and were younger."

Furthermore, the charges indicate that the paid administrative leave he was placed on in March of 2010 was a form of retaliation for a previous charge of discrimination against the borough.

"[Alston] filed a charge of discrimination based on his race and age with the Commission in November 2009. [Alston] alleges that on or about March 5, 2010 he was suspended for allegations which he claims were unfounded and in retaliation for his complaint of discrimination," the EEOC document states.

According to the EEOC document, the borough has denied Alston's allegations.

"[The borough] denies that [Alston] was discriminated against. [The borough] contends that [Alston's] complaint of discrimination could not be substantiated. [The borough] further contends that [Alston's] disciplinary action was for cause and not the result of any discriminatory and/or retaliatory animus," it read.

Annie Brooks July 14, 2011 at 01:46 AM
"'. . .The Prosecutor's office found that there was no merit to the charge.'" "The Borough of Matawan proceeded with their own investigation in the form of an administrative hearing." The result of their finding was the demotion of the town's first African American chief of police. They took the word of a convicted felon whom the Police Chief had arrested in the past on drug charges over that of their own Chief and that of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. Sounds like the Good Ole Boys wanted to get rid of Chief Alston, despite his thirty years of service, and would do whatever it took to get it done, the double-speak by Borough Attorney Menna notwithstading. Perhaps Alston's complaint to the EEOC of unfair treatment based on his race and age has everything to do with why they went after him. Add to that the fact that when Alston was "promoted" to the position of police chief, "he 'was not offered the same contract terms and conditions as the previous individuals holding that position, who were not African American and were younger.'" That, alone, smacks of discrimination. [The borough] has some explaining to do. They also need to pay the man and make the necessary amends so that this type of situation cannot happen again. That they would treat a long-term, professional employee in such a despicable manner is indeed "'outrageous!'"

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