Edison resident says there is such a thing as bad publicity

Staff Writer

EDISON — People in Florida are wondering what is going on in Edison.

That is what resident Walt Shneer told the Township Council at a June 12 meeting.

“I’m not making this up,” he said.

Edison Township has been popping up in the press recently because of issues with its police department.

Trouble within the Edison Police Department reared its ugly head recently when a nine-year veteran police officer was charged with the attempted murder of his superior officer and his family.

Michael A. Dotro, 35, was arrested at his home in Manalapan on May 23 and was charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated arson for allegedly setting fire to the Monroe home of Edison police Capt. Mark Anderko in the early morning hours of May 20.

On June 1, Patrolman Alan Varady allegedly attended a party in the township and consumed alcoholic beverages while on duty, and was later charged with driving under the influence.

“This is an embarrassment,” resident Bruce Diamond said.

Diamond said he can’t wait for the bill that was approved by the state Assembly, which will turn over control of Edison’s internal affairs investigations to the state attorney general.

The bill was co-sponsored by former Edison Councilman and current Assemblyman Peter Barnes III (D-Middlesex) and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen).

Barnes said he moved forward with the bill because of the longtime allegations of political retaliation and whitewashing within the Edison Police Department.

“It’s not fair to us as taxpayers,” Diamond said. “Something needs to be done.”

Township Councilman Sudhanshu Prasad said he understood Diamond’s message.

Prasad said that six years ago, the department had an outside person come in with no connections. That person was Police Director Brian Collier, who was appointed by former Mayor Jun Choi in April 2008.

“[Collier] was brought in — for a lack of better words — to straighten out the police department,” Prasad said.

In 18 months, the department became one of a few state-accredited police forces, he said. Collier resigned in late 2009 and died the following year.

Choi had said the advantage of a police director over a police chief is greater accountability. Because there is no tenure for a police director and because he answers directly to the administration, there is more accountability for the director’s performance, as opposed to a tenured chief, who is more difficult to remove if things turn sour.

Prasad said he believes it is important to bring an outside entity into the police department, whether it is the state Attorney General’s Office or the county prosecutor.

Diamond said that whatever it is, something needs to be done now because the township is a laughingstock to people everywhere.

“We look silly,” he said.