Both the mayor and police of a New Jersey Township were accused on Monday of abuse of their power. In unrelated incidents, the top official of the township was criminally charged. The state attorney general recommended the removal of both the chief of police and a sergeant.
Sal Bonaccorso is accused of falsifying documents to benefit his landscaping business. Bonaccorso has been mayor of Clark, Michigan since 2001.
Officials from the state say that according to the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, Bonaccorso operated his underground tank removal business, Bonaccorso & Son LLC out of his township’s office and utilized municipal resources. According to a press release, he is accused of using equipment from the township such as computers and faxes and of directing workers in order to run his private business.
Matthew J. Platkin, New Jersey’s Attorney General, said that any elected leader who abuses their power and position, and misuses public assets and employees to his benefit at the taxpayer’s expense, betrays public trust.
The AG announced that the mayor was charged with second degree misconduct, third degree tampering of public records or information or third-degree witness tampering as well as fourth-degree forgery, and fourth-degree falsifying records.
Bonaccorso was not available for comment on Monday afternoon.
Clark, a town with a population of 15,200, located 13 miles south-east of Newark is dominated by whites. Only 2 percent are black. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 4.3-square mile community with its well-maintained lawns and comfortable houses has a median annual income of $114,000 Census Bureau.
In a scathing 43-page report, the AG also revealed Monday the results of an investigation into alleged racists, sexists and antisemites in Clark’s Police Department.
The mayor, Pedro Matos, the Police Chief and Sgt. The AG’s report stated that Joseph Teston, the head of the internal affairs division, used “problematic language” when discussing hiring practices.
Platkin recommends that Matos and Teston should be fired.
Matos and Teston were not available for comment on Monday afternoon.
According to a press release, Matos failed to report allegations of wrongdoing regularly to the county prosecutor’s office. He also “violated the code of conduct in relation to derogatory remarks and failed to conduct an internal affairs investigation.”
In July 2020, the Union County prosecutor’s office and the state’s attorney general’s office took control of Clark’s Police Department amid allegations of misconduct. NBC New York reported that the state attorney general had promised a report about the problems in Clark’s police department.
Platkin stated that Teston had violated the code of conduct by making derogatory remarks and he failed to conduct an internal investigation.
The AG’s Office reported that he was arrested again in New York in 2022, outside a professional sporting arena. Teston eventually admitted that he had struck an unarmed individual with a glass container and fled.
A statement stated that Platkin’s recommendations to terminate the officers were not binding.
In 2022 audio recordings of Bonaccorso uttering profanity and using racist language surfaced, thrusting both the mayor and the small town in the national spotlight. Bonaccorso refused to resign. He apologized to the public in April 2022.
Bonaccorso admitted he was heard in secret audio recordings by former Clark Police Lt. Antonio Manata. Bonaccorso uses the N word and other derogatory words on the recordings. He admitted saying that female police officers are “disasters.”
Manata recorded the recordings in 2018 and 2019.