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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A familiar face at City Hall quietly left the administration of Mayor James Cahill last month, around the same time two major scandals befell the administration.
For nearly five years, Michael Beltranena worked as one of Cahill’s closest aides and had previously served as the city’s Police Director for eight years.
Beltranena’s departure may provide some insight into whether or not the six-term mayor will seek re-election this fall. Cahill was first elected to lead the city government in 1990 and has not said whether he plans to run for another term in 2014.
Cahill had appointed Beltranena to serve as New Brunswick’s Police Director in 1993. He left that job to take the same position in suburban Montgomery Township, before returning to the Cahill administration as an aide in December 2008.
Though the Mayor’s Office announced his hiring to the $68,500 job with a press release, no similar efforts were made to acknowledge his departure. City Council members made no mention of his retirement at their public meetings.
Beltranena’s final salary was $69,500, in addition to a $92,142 annual pension for his 26 years of policework.
He left the public job to focus on his role as Director of Safey & Security position for CoachUSA bus company, based in New Brunswick.
His departure came just a few weeks after an activist raised questions about Beltranena’s simultaneous employment with the city and CoachUSA.
At a November 6 City Council meeting, activist Tormel Pittman raised concerns that Beltranena was working a private sector job from City Hall during business hours.
“He’s working for the city and he also works for Coach USA. What does he work for them, on the weekend?” asked Pittman.
“That would be his personal business,” replied Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin, who had learned earlier that day that the Department of Environmental Protection had accused the city of covering up water quality problems for more than three years.
“If Mike Beltranena is working for CoachUSA during the same hours he’s supposed to work for the city, can we look into that?” Pittman pressed.
“I can categorically say right now that that is totally untrue… It’s not even worth looking into. It’s untrue,” said Loughlin.
Beltranena’s departure also came three weeks before a major drug bust took down the city’s longtime chief housing inspector Michael Mahony, who was caught transporting a distribution quantity of cocaine in a city-owned vehicle.
“Michael Beltranena’s retirement date was December 1, 2013,” said Cahill’s spokesman Russell Marchetta. Marchetta did not say why Beltranena retired or if a resignation letter existed.
Two years ago, Beltranena was a finalist for the Trenton Police Director job, but according to NJ.com’s Alex Zdan, he was not selected because he refused to move to Trenton to take the position.
Zdan quoted Trenton’s labor attorney as saying, “[Ralph] Rivera and former New Brunswick Police Director Michael Beltranena were the two names the state Department of Community Affairs sent [Mayor Tony] Mack following interviews with a number of candidates.”
Beltranena is still listed as a board member on the Puerto Rican Action Board’s website. The PRAB is a social services organization started in New Brunswick that has close ties to the city and county government.
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, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.