NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Police Director Anthony "Tony" Caputo is now set to sit on the board that runs the city's powerful Parking Authority through 2023.
At Mayor James Cahill's request, the City Council consented to the five-year appointment in his absence.
Caputo is perhaps the city's most elusive public official, the only department head in Cahill's cabinet that consistently does not attend the Council's meetings.
A close ally of Cahill, Caputo did almost no public events last year, but he attended eight of the Parking Authority's twelve public meetings, which are held high atop the city on the sixth floor of 106 Somerset Street.
Even there, the notorious "double-dipper" typically doesn't take questions from the public, consistently referring New Brunswick Today to the NBPD's public information officer JT Miller.
"You know the drill," was all Caputo said in response to questions about Cahill's plan to create a new Deputy Chief position within Caputo's department. Miller referred our inquiries to City Hall, where the Mayor's Office said they "don't respond to political publications."
Along with the board's four other members, Caputo controls the massive New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA), the largest agency of its kind in New Jersey.
The authority, which manages not just parking facilities but also a significant amount of commercial real estate, has a current annual budget of $32.7 million, and has managed to rack up over $390 million in debt.
NBPA Board members don't get paid, but they do get an access card that grants them unlimited free parking in any of the NBPA's eight public garages. A ninth garage is currently under construction on Bayard Street, thanks to $23 million in funds borrowed by the authority in 2017.
The authority also runs several surface lots and enforces laws governing permit parking and metered parking throughout the city. But, over the years, the NBPA has also acquired and leased out a significant amount of commercial real estate.
The NBPA currently rents out several floors of office space in the "Gateway" building where they are headquartered, along with other spaces in the highrise, which is the city's tallest. They also rent out the spaces used by the struggling Superfresh supermarket, and the fitness center located above it in the NBPA's "Wellness Plaza."
As we reported, the supermarket operator currently owes the NBPA approximately $500,000 in back rent.
In an unusual arrangement, the NBPA recently began managing an entire block of storefronts owned by the New Brunswick Housing Authority on the ground floor of the "Easton Avenue Apartments," a 12-story Rutgers dormitory.
The authority also owns a massive piece of prime real estate just on the other side of the railroad tracks, the longtime home of the now-demolished Ferren Mall and parking garage.
Located along Route 27 across from New Brunswick's downtown train station, developers and politicians have long fantasized about building something grand in the space.
But none of those Ferren fantasies have come true.
The site remains a fallow eyesore, with no physical signs of progress despite a billboard ten stories above that declares "INNOVATION UNDER CONSTRUCTION."
The authority's five-member board has served as proving ground for City Council candidates, helping propel two former members into elected office since 2010: Kevin Egan and John Anderson.
Like most of the NBPA Board's members, Caputo has gotten comfortable in his seat. It's also not Caputo's first stint as the powerful NBPD Director, where he is paid $133,818.
Caputo retired as Director in 2010, eighteen months before Cahill restored him to to power in a controversial move that allows Caputo to collect a $115,019 pension while still employed by the city government. As we reported, Cahill also collects both a public salary and a public pension.
In addition to $376,234 in unused sick and vacation pay, Caputo received another parting gift upon his short-lived retirement: a coveted appointment to serve on the NBPA Board of Commissioners.
Caputo's wife Donna, a city employee since 1994, earns a $62,886 annual salary as the city's Recycling Coordinator.
His sister, Tina Rose Caputo, was hired in October 2017 to a $60,000 salaried position as the Supervisor of Billing and Collecting for the city's embattled Water Utility.
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.