NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Peter Mangarella, a former New Brunswick Police Director in charge of security for the city’s school system, is being ousted from his position with the school district after nearly a decade in the job.
Multiple sources said the departure stems from a post Mangarella made on Facebook in late May.
The now-deleted post read “It looks like it’s time to start cracking heads,” and came following news that rioting was taking place in some American cities following mass protests against police brutality.
John Soulias has apparently been promoted to Interim Security Director, but district officials are not saying anything about what happened to Mangarella.
“We do not discuss personnel matters,” said Superintendent Aubrey Johnson.
Board of Education Secretary and Business Administrator Richard Jannarone has failed to respond to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) Request for public information about Mangarella’s departure.
On March 20, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law allowing governments to be more lax when it comes to responding to OPRA requests, a move that Jannarone is taking advantage of and keeping the public in the dark.
All nine elected Board of Education members have also remained silent on the Mangarella matter, ignoring repeated inquiries from New Brunswick Today or, in the case of one member, firing back bizarre messages.
“You have not provided a cover article about the New Brunswick Board of Education election in your paper,” Caldwell wrote, copying his colleagues. “I have to respectfully ask why would the Board give you any comment at all about anything if you are not covering all of the news impartially?”
“I am officially requesting an apology in your paper for not covering the New Brunswick Board of Education election results,” wrote Caldwell. (NBT was the first outlet to report results.)
The district’s outside public relations firm, Success Communications Group, also failed to respond to repeated inquiries about Mangarella’s departure.
Mangarella’s job in the schools has been controversial from the start, for a variety of reasons.
Mangarella was also a defendant in a civil lawsuit stemming from his time as the Director of the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD), one that accused him of racial discrimination and using a Sicilian slur to describe Black people.
Steve Middleton, a former NBPD lieutenant, testified in a trial that Mangarella frequently used racially insensitive language. The case was resolved with a $172,000 settlement paid to the ex-lieutenant.
Middleton, a Black man, said Mangarella regularly made “inappropriate, unprofessional” jokes that showed a “disregard for minorities,” including repetitive remarks that made light of an unarmed African-American man that Mangarella had shot earlier in his career.
At the heart of Middleton’s case is a sworn affidavit from Dean Dakin, a NBPD officer that was allegedly on the receiving end of Mangarella’s racial comment: “I don’t like those mulignons, either, Dean.”
Dakin allegedly repeated the story to Middleton, who according to the complaint, “was warned by this fellow officer to be careful because defendant Mangarella was a racist and was out to get him.”
Years later, police union officials helped to draft the affidavit for Dakin to sign, swearing that Mangarella had made the racial remark.
Mangarella retired as NBPD Director in 2011, allowing Anthony “Tony” Caputo to come out of retirement and resume control of the department, but the allegations didn’t stop the city school district from hiring Mangarella as its security chief.
The switch allowed Mangarella to collect a $116,405 annual pension for his policework, while simultaneously banking a salary from the Board of Ed, and for Caputo to begin collecting both a six-figure salary and a six-figure pension for the same job.
As of September 2019, Mangarella’s annual salary had risen to $112,359.12. When he was first hired by the district in September 2011, it was $90,000.
The Board of Education is holding their next meeting via telephone conference on Tuesday, June 23. No meeting agenda has been released.
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.