NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Faced with an inconsistency in the public record, city officials admitted on Friday that a police officer who shot and killed Barry Deloatch, an unarmed 47-year-old city resident in September 2011 stayed on the payroll for 15 months before his resignation took effect.
On Friday, new city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw responded to longstanding questions about the resignation date of former city cop Brad Berdel.
Bradshaw confirmed that Berdel was paid for fifteen months that he did not work between the shooting and his resignation, totaling more than $125,000 in salary.
"[Berdel] was on administrative leave from the day of the shooting until his resignation," Bradshaw confirmed.
Official records show Berdel retired on January 1, 2013, but the city government had announced his resignation in late August of 2012, leading the public to believe the resignation had taken effect.
Bradshaw said that the city's police department did not lie in their August press release, which was one of several that were conspicuously omitted from the response to a recent public records request by New Brunswick Today.
Instead, careful wording succeeded in fooling the mass media, including Bradshaw herself, a former journalist who just joined the administration of Mayor James Cahill this week.
While the NBPD statement announced Berdel had "submitted his resignation," Bradshaw's Patch.com website was one of several media outlets reported that he had in fact "resigned."
But that wasn't exactly the case. Rather, Bradshaw tells New Brunswick Today that Berdel's August resignation letter said it would not take effect until January 1, 2013.
Without the public knowing, Berdel continued collecting his $101,668 annual salary for more than four months after his resignation was announced.
After the city announcement, Berdel continued to collect a city paycheck while he remained on paid administrative leave. Berdel earned at least $33,000 during this period.
"He couldn't be removed from the position," Bradshaw told New Brunswick Today. "There wasn't just cause to terminate him."
A spokesperson for the Department of Treasury did not immediately respond to an emailed request for information about Berdel's pension. According to MyCentralJersey.com's DataUniverse Berdel shows up as a retiree with a $0 pension.
In Bradshaw's own words, excerpted from the article she wrote about Berdel's resignation, "Deloatch's death sparked a loud response from parts of the New Brunswick community, calling for the officers involved to be disciplined and more oversight at the police department."
It was widely understood that Deloatch's shooting death could have been prevented, either if Berdel had been armed with any weapon besides a gun, or if pre-existing internal affairs claims against Berdel and his partner had been properly investigated.
Berdel, a Monroe Township resident and one-time donor to Mayor Cahill, was found to have violated the department's uniform policy the night of Deloatch's death because he did not have pepper spray or a department-issued baton on his person when he fatally shot Deloatch.
In the wake of the killing, Cahill donated $1,000 from his campaign fund to help pay for Deloatch's funeral and announced changes to the city's internal affairs procedures after the NBPD officer responsible for internal affairs was charged with mishandling 81 investigations.
The impact of the incident where Deloatch's life was taken on the night of September 22, 2011 still stings, straining the difficult relationship between the police department and the community.
The official story was that Deloatch came at Berdel's partner Dan Mazan with "a stick," when Berdel fired the shots that killed the man from a distance.
"Suspect was attempting to hit us with a... a wooden stick," a voice said on the police radio shortly after the "shots fired" announcement.
Deloatch was dead before medical personnel arrived at the scene, and was never charged with a crime.
The controversy was one of the most damaging in the highly-volatile sixth term of Mayor Cahill, who recently announced he would be seeking an unprecedented seventh term this week.
According to the official story, Deloatch ran from the officers before using a wooden stick as a weapon against Mazan, while they were stuck under a fence together in the backyard of 105 Throop Avenue.
Then, from a distance, Berdel shot and killed Deloatch.
A grand jury declined to indict Berdel in the shooting, but questions have since been raised about Nicholas Sewitch, the prosecutor who presented the case.
Sewitch abruptly retired shortly after the grand jury returned its decision, and was rumored to be under investigation, as we reported.