Embattled Fire Director Gave $500 to Cahill Campaign in Last Election

UPDATE (7/21): Fire Director Robert Rawls' traffic court case, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed until further notice.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A major source of funding for Mayor Jim Cahill's political campaigns is the city's public employees, including many of the ten department heads that he hires and fires.

And Fire Director Robert Rawls, who recently became embroiled in a controversy after he struck three children while driving a city-owned SUV in May, was no exception.

Rawls gave $250 to the campaign fund of Mayor Cahill in 2009, and another $250 in 2010.

Director Rawls makes an annual salary of $155,054, the second-highest salary of all city employees, and has been with the department since 1986.

Rawls is presently the only person of color in the mayor's all-male cabinet.

In 2004, Rawls led protests against the lack of minority firefighters in leadership positions.  Two years later, Cahill appointed him to become the department director, a position that comes with a "take-home" city vehicle.

In his eight years as Fire Director, Rawls was involved in at least twelve crashes, including the most recent one that caused City Hall to stop letting him drive on the clock.

A spokesperson for Cahill could not say for certain whether Rawls' September 17, 2009 political donation occurred before or after a different crash that Rawls was involved in on the same day.

"I don't have an answer for that," said Cahill spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw, asked which came first.

The out-of-town crash took place at 4:23pm, according to a police report obtained by New Brunswick Today.

In the September 2009 crash, one of three documented crashes that year for Rawls, the Director was not found to be at fault, and summonses were issued to the other motorist by North Brunswick Police.

NBC New York revealed that Rawls had been in 19 reported crashes, including several involving city-owned vehicles.

His driving privelege may have been revoked, and he is not permitted to drive as part of his duties as Fire Director, and the city's Emergency Management Coordinator.

Rawls has not given a donation to Cahill since 2010, when Cahill defeated local attorney Patricia Bombelyn in a primary election.  But this year, for the first time in Cahill's seven elections, the mayor has no opponent.

Rawls was cleared of criminal charges by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office in the May 6 crash, but two traffic tickets issued by local police have been transferred to South Brunswick for prosecution.

That case is scheduled to be heard this Tuesday, July 22 at South Brunswick Municipal Court.

Editor at New Brunswick Today | 732-993-9697 | editor@newbrunswicktoday.com

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.