NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The City Council was surprised to learn that a suspended police officer is back on the force, after previously being indicted for illegally voting in New Brunswick elections while he lived in other towns
After the council was asked by NewBrunswickToday.com whether rumors were true that former Lt. Robert Tierney had returned to active duty, the city's Business Administrator jumped in.
"He is [back on the force]," Thomas Loughlin told the Council.
Tierney was charged with theft by deception and violating election law in September 2010.
"Mr. Tierney sustained a double-demotion for lack of a better word," said Loughlin, adding the former leiutenant had been knocked down to the rank of patrolman.
Tierney's suspension was incorrectly reported as an unpaid suspension in a release issued by the county prosecutor's office.
Instead, Tierney was paid his full six-figure salary until April when a grand jury indicted him on voter fraud charges, as well as for illegally keeping his ex-wife on his city-sponsored health insurance plan after their divorce.
"First I'm hearing about it," said Councilman Kevin Egan. The rest of the five-member council acknowledged they were also unaware Tierney was back.
"We have not heard, but duly noted," said Council President Rebecca Escobar.
Administration officials were confident they did nothing wrong by leaving the council in the dark.
"I don't see anything that was required of us was not done," said city attorney Bill Hamilton.
"I did not communicate with the council. I don't know if anyone else spoke with [them] directly," said Loughlin.
Tierney re-joined the force on February 4, according to Loughlin, sixteen days before the council meeting. The former lieutenant who joined the department in 1994 completed a 12-month pre-trial intervention program that resulted in his charges being dismissed.
He was also required to re-pay $845.07 in claims his insurance paid out for his ex-wife.
His attorney Patrick Toscano Jr. told the Newark Star-Ledger that Tierney was "held in high esteem by all law enforcement agencies and officers" who knew him, and that "the alleged offenses were the result of an unintentional mistake on his part, and not a knowing violation of any statute."
Asked why Tierney was permitted to re-join the force by activist Tormel Pittman, Council President Rebecca Escobar acknowledged she was unable to answer.
"We'll find out. We have nothing. You just heard that we were not aware of that situation. I'm not even sure if everybody is aware what is the situation with Lt. Tierney in order to comment or anything else. It was duly noted," Escobar said.
"Another question: Is it true [Tierney] has nineteen departmental charges?" Pittman asked, calling on the president to refer the question to NBPD Captain William Milligan, who was in attendance to represent the department.
"Again Mr. Pittman, at this time I don't think that's the right forum for that because we have no idea of what's going on," Escobar responded.
Pittman proceeded to ask, "Is it true that he works in the communications department?"
"Again, Mr. Pittman–," Escobar began before Pittman interrupted her.
"Is it true that he has his own office?"
"We're not going to discuss this… so can we just move forward?" Escobar asked.
Pressed further by Pittman, Escobar pledged to "respond" and "make an informed decision."
"So, let us find out so we can make a decision… We're going to find out about what is the situation and as soon as we know we will respond and we will be able to make an informed decision."
"Again, I am acknowledging that we have no knowledge."
"Can we move forward?" Escobar asked for the second time, shortly before banging her gavel and calling on another member of the public.
"Obviously, we will talk later," Escobar said.
"We can talk now while the cameras are rolling," replied Pittman.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.