The Bergen County executive and officials representing the county sheriff’s department are embroiled in a war of words. County Executive Kathleen Donovan has criticized the sheriff’s department, claiming it has strayed away from its core function, and PBA Local 134 has fired back with its own charges. PBA Local 134 Vice President Michael Doyle told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor that Donovan has said untruths about the sheriff’s department and that she is abusing her power.
According to Doyle, Donovan asked for the PBA’s support during her campaign for county executive and assured members that she had no interest in privatizing the county jail and wasn’t considering layoffs. “Not even three months into her tenure, she starts talking about privatization and layoffs,” he said, adding she also began putting unreasonable demands on the sheriff’s budget.
That wasn’t the end of the problems, according to Doyle. “Since that time, she’s made a numerous amount of disparaging remarks about the minimum work release department, mainly talking about how we are involved in the political world and that our job is politicized and that we don’t perform police functions or police duties,” he said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Donovan has also criticized the sheriff’s department for not eliminating positions through attrition. Doyle said the sheriff is working on that.
He said Donovan is abusing her power. As an example, he said Donovan is driven around the county in a county vehicle. “Allegedly, there’s some sort of threat against her safety which has been investigated now for a year and a half which is unfounded,” Doyle said. “No one has been able to come forward and say what the threat is. And if there is a threat, it hasn’t been passed on to other law enforcement agencies.”
According to Doyle, Donovan says her position has been trying to make government smaller and weed out political cronyism. “Her office itself is rife with the exact same things,” he said.
There is also a contract dispute going on between the PBA and Donovan. “We negotiated a contract with the sheriff — a very fair contract — that was ratified by our membership, approved by the sheriff, more importantly approved and ratified by the freeholders and the monies were allocated in the budget this year,” Doyle said. “And Ms. Donovan just refused to honor our contract.”
Doyle said Donovan claimed she had a right to sit at the bargaining table during contract negotiations. But Doyle said that’s never been done before. “The county executive does not sit at the bargaining table with us and we had a recent PERC [Public Employment Relations Commission] decision that actually reaffirms that,” he said.