NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ—Mayor Mac Womack confirmed that a suspended Township employee who was charged with distributing drugs on the job can return to work as soon as he recovers from a "non-work-related" injury.
Michael Vitanza has worked as a laborer with the Township of North Brunswick's Department of Public Works until his December 2013 arrest in a State Police operation that took down a major drug and gun sales network.
Authorities said he was caught purchasing drugs while he was on the job.
One year later, he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy to possess marijuana, and was eventually sentenced to one year of probation beginning in February.
"Mr. Vitanza is currently not suspended," confirmed Mayor Womack. "I understand that he suffered a non-work related injury… and will be returning to work as soon as his doctors allow."
Vitanza, like New Brunswick's Chief Housing Inspector Mike Mahony, was one of the first among the group of ten men accused in the case to cut a plea deal. Both public workers successfully avoided jail sentences.
Mahony, unlike Vitanza, is forever barred from public employment in the state.
"Ultimately it's my understanding,… Mike ultimately plead guilty to a low-level violation," Womack told New Brunswick Today. "Although his origianl charges had been significant, for whatever reason they had not been sustained."
"He has always been a good employee and been an important volunteer fireman in town," Womack said.
Womack said there had already been "administrative disciplinary action" in the case, and said his administration felt that "it was the right thing to do to offer him his job back and help him get his life back on track."
At least one additional man accused in the scheme, a New Brunswick landlord, has pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and drug distribution charges, and is facing a ten-year prison sentence.
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 an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.