The Matawan Borough Council plans to appoint attorney Matthew Giacobbe next Tuesday to issue their response to a complaint filed with the Superior Court by former police chief James Alston.
Alston was to the rank of lieutenant at a special meeting July 11 of the council after an administrative hearing. The Council voted 6-1 for the demotion, along with ten days of unpaid suspension.
In a complaint filed July 20, Alston demands that he be reinstated as the Chief of Police, that the disciplinary charges be dismissed and expunged from his personnel file and all borough documents and that he be awarded attorney fees and any other amount the court sees fit.
According to the complaint, on June 17, 2010, Matawan Borough Administrator William Garofalo filed disciplinary charges against Alston, citing four instances. Garofalo charged Alston with incapacity, misconduct, disobedience of the rules and regulations set forth by the government for the police department and force, conduct unbecoming of a public official, neglect of duty, incompetency, inefficency or failure to perform duties, misuse of public property including motor vehicles and other sufficient cause.
Alston's complaint contends that the four incidents cited in Garofalo's disciplinary charges are exaggerated and false.
The first incident, on October 9, 2009, concerns an altercation on Orchard Street in Matawan. According to Alston's attorney, David Corrigan of Keyport, a suspect at the scene accused Alston of flicking a cigarette at him which burnt his shirt and of being intoxicated at the scence. The complaint states that the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office investigated this incident and decided there was insufficient evidence to press charges.
According to Corrigan, Alston had responded to the scene after a resident had called to inform him that a crowd was gathering on Orchard Street, possibly linked to criminal activity. Corrigan also said that another Matawan police officer, Darian Holmes, said that Alston was not intoxicated and did not flick a cigarette at the suspect.
The second incident cited in the disciplinary charges alleged that Alston obstructed by "speaking with Lieutenants under his command," the complaint says. According to Corrigan, these charges stem from the same incident on Orchard Street in October of 2009. Corrigan and the complaint state that the lieutenants later said Alston did not interfere with them.
While this incident was under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Alston was required to turn in all weapons. The third incident alleges that Alston did not return all of the weapons. According to Corrigan, the state registry shows that Alston owns seven firearms but the registry also carries a disclaimer that it may not reflect current ownership. Corrigan said that Alston, who returned five firearms, sold two through the legal process to a gun store.
The fourth incident accuses Alston of traveling to Atlantic City while signed in on duty for the police department; Alston's complaint disputes the accusation, stating that he was not actually on duty at the time.
Matawan Mayor Paul Buccullato declined comment, as the matter is still considered a personnel issue.
The next regular action meeting of the Matawan Borough is August 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Matawan Municipal Community Center.