Time for some DCA heads to roll

Metuchen Mayor Edmund O’Brien’s recent guest column in the Sentinel was interesting, to say the least.

But his honor still failed to answer questions about how the state Department of Community Affairs issued not one, but two reviews of the borough police department.

And he also again failed to acknowledge whether there is a morale problem in his police department.

The mayor started off his piece by attempting to discredit the Sentinel. He claimed that neither a reporter nor an editor contacted him about “some of the issues” raised in a recent editorial. First of all, newspapers do not generally call public officials for comment about an opinion piece.

And for the record, the mayor was asked a number of questions about the report. Make that the reports. The bumbling state Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services issued not one, but two reviews of the police department.

The mayor was also repeatedly asked if he thought there was a morale problem in the police department. He repeatedly told a reporter to look into the DCA report for the answer. He had ample opportunity to answer yes or no to the question.

He then launched into a windy description about how the report came about, dating back to Gov. Whitman back in the 1990s. The borough, he said, accepted the state’s offer for a review of the police department in 2005.

When the assessment was finished, in early 2006, the DCA told borough officials they had to come to Trenton to review the “audit,” the mayor said in his letter.

It was not a financial audit. It was an assessment of the police department operations.

The mayor then proceeded to describe how the DCA botched many sections of the review. For instance, he said when he “asked” if morale was low in the police department, someone in the DCA told him it was a mistake, and the reference to low morale, present in the first draft, was inked out.

But there was no reason for the mayor to ask if there was a morale problem. He knew full well there was one already. He only had to look at Metuchen PBA President Joseph Ernest’s March 5 letter addressed to him and the Borough Council to know there was one.

He then went on to say that the draft report had “obviously wrong” demographic information about Metuchen. The demographic information in the draft report and the so-called final report is the same, word for word.

The first report called for a school resource officer. The position was needed in this post-9/11 world and had been recommended by former Gov. Richard J. Codey and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

O’Brien said he was told the position was put into all reports because it was one of Codey’s pet projects. Even if it was standard boilerplate in all municipal reviews, it should still be considered for Metuchen. If the DCA failed to provide a needs assessment, then the borough should.

He then said the Sentinel had a copy of a draft report he hadn’t seen, even though he made a reference to “the draft” several paragraphs up.

But the mayor is right when he says the DCA review process is deeply flawed. When the borough received its final report, Metuchen’s name was on the cover, but the hand-delivered report was quickly snatched back, the mayor says, because the contents referred to other towns.

The Sentinel received the “draft” report several times from the DCA. When the mayor complained we had received the wrong report, the DCA assured us several times it was the correct report. Two days later, we were told we had the wrong report, issued to us in a clerical error.

The dunderheads who worked on this “review” for the borough shouldn’t be working for the DCA anymore. This botched report calls into question any other DCA report that is issued.

Gov. Corzine should send someone in to find out what is going on in this department that was created to serve the state’s municipalities.

Just make sure, Governor, it’s not anyone from the DCA.