Bergen County Sheriff investigating inmate’s early release

20 10 2009

HACKENSACK — The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal investigation into the premature release of an inmate from the county jail last month.

Jasmine Thompson, 20, of Hackensack, was released Sept. 25 after she was sentenced to two years of probation on a simple assault charge stemming from a 2007 incident. However, Thompson continued to face a robbery charge for allegedly stealing a backpack from a 16-year-old girl in Hackensack on Sept. 11, and should not have been released until that charged was resolved, said Ben Feldman, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Thompson was arrested in Paterson on Friday and was being held at the jail Friday with bail set at $85,000. The charges against her have been updated to include a probation violation.

Bergen County Sherriff Leo P. McGuire “is extremely unhappy about this, and he considers one incident like this too many,” Feldman said. “We are doing an internal investigation to determine what modifications we need to make to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.”
(News Source:


Anti-abortion activists hold vigil in Hackensack

8 10 2009

anti-abortion-activistsHACKENSACK – Dozens of protesters are holding a round-the-clock vigil in front of a women’s health clinic as part of a 40-day campaign aimed at preventing abortions.

The anti-abortion activists, made up of local religious groups and volunteers, are participating in “40 Days for Life,” a nationwide campaign in which protesters hold peaceful vigils in front of abortion clinics, Hackensack coordinator Lorraine Logerfo said.

Hackensack is one of more than 200 cities participating across the country.

The effort kicked off Sept. 23 with a Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Hackensack, followed by a procession to the Women’s Choice Medical Center on Zabriskie Street.

Volunteers take turns at the vigil, according to a schedule that ensures people will be present for 24 hours until the campaign ends Nov. 1, Logerfo said.

On Saturday, around 11:30 a.m., five women and a man with a young child stood in a line across the street from the clinic, holding rosaries. They did carry signs, but some wore t-shirts that read, “Say yes to Life.” A wooden cross was mounted to a nearby telephone pole.

Representatives of the Women’s Choice Medical Center could not be reached for comment. A secretary at the clinic deferred comment to the clinic’s owner, but the owner did not return a call seeking comment Saturday.

A patient entering the clinic also declined comment.

Across the country, pro-choice groups have countered with protests of their own at abortion clinics. A pro-choice rally organized by New York City Abortion Clinic Defense was scheduled to be held Saturday in front of the Dr. Emily clinic in the Bronx, where anti-abortion protesters were participating in “40 Days for Life.”

Suzanne Alexander, of Teaneck, one of the protesters in Hackensack, said the volunteers are there to pray, and typically, do not approach patients.

“We would like people to see us and change their minds,” Alexander said.

But the novices of the Franciscans of the Renewal from the Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark, who participated early Saturday, approached patients and handed out literature, she said.

Lucy Meagher, a mother of seven from Dumont, said she is participating in the vigil every Saturday.

“We’re not here to judge them, we’re here to love them and tell them there are options,” she said.

Teaneck to give vets parking-lot perks

4 08 2008

TEANECK – The township will establish courtesy parking spaces for veterans in two of its municipal lots. (Former Mayor) Councilman Elie Katz , who came up with the idea, said the gesture is a way of thanking veterans for their service.

“It is because of our veterans that we as Americans can enjoy all of our rights and liberties,” he said. Signs will ask drivers to reserve the spaces for veterans.

Squad leader claims ‘harassment’

22 05 2008

Letter says Jewish group not up to code

PASSAIC — The city has told one of two Passaic-based Orthodox Jewish volunteer ambulance squads that it must shut down because the squad isn’t up to city code.

But the squad’s founder called the city’s action “harassment” and questioned why the other Jewish squad wasn’t scrutinized.

On Monday, the city sent a letter signed by its law firm, Scarinci & Hollenbeck, to David Kaplan, 26, founder of Hatzolah EMS of North Jersey, saying the squad wasn’t in compliance with city law.

The letter said Hatzolah must shut down operations by the end of the day on May 19 if it did not fulfill the requirements of proving that all volunteers are qualified and that the squad has insurance that covers any legal action against the city up to $2 million. The requirements are outlined in a 2004 ordinance.

Kaplan said his squad does meet city requirements and showed necessary proof to the city last September. A letter to Kaplan from former Mayor Samuel Rivera, dated Sept. 12, states that Hatzolah is qualified to provide emergency medical services in Passaic and that a certificate remains in effect for two years from that date.

But Acting Mayor Gary Schaer said to the best of his knowledge Hatzolah had not met all the city’s requirements.

Hatzolah is licensed to operate by the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services, although a license is not necessary to operate, said spokeswoman Marilyn Riley.

As of Wednesday, Hatzolah had not provided documentation to the city, Kaplan said. But Hatzolah is continuing operations anyway, he said, because Kaplan believes the city’s letter is unfair and unfounded.

To complicate matters, a second Hatzolah ambulance service with a similar name — Hatzolah of Passaic/Clifton — has never been used informally by the city and is not on the list of squads the city uses. Hatzolah means “rescue” in Hebrew. The squads are local chapters of a worldwide organization that has volunteer ambulance squads in Jewish neighborhoods.

Greg Hill, the business administrator, said the city has not checked whether the second Jewish squad is violating city law. Schaer, an Orthodox Jew, said he asked Hill on Tuesday to verify that all private ambulance squads comply with city law. Passaic has only the two Hatzolahs as private squads.

The city’s paid squad, which has two ambulances, is overseen by the Police Department. When both vehicles are in use, the city calls other municipalities and private squads to ask if they can dispatch an ambulance immediately. Andy White, police spokesman, said Kaplan’s Hatzolah has been called in recent months after the Clifton squad and a private company based at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Last week, the City Council entertained a resolution that would formally add Kaplan’s Hatzolah to the city’s list of mutual aid services. But the resolution was defeated by a 3-3 tie vote. A tie means the measure is rejected.

The three Orthodox Jewish council members voted against the resolution, while the three Hispanic members voted in favor.

Schaer, who proposed the resolution, said he voted against it because he believes Hatzolah was stoking ethnic divide in the city.

“Picking up an ambulance group that’s working primarily in one part of town — I don’t think it’s a good idea, if we’re continuing our fight to unite Passaic,” Schaer said.

Kaplan said Hatzolah serves the entire city, not just Jews.

“It’s ludicrous, because the whole point of doing 911 is we service anybody. We don’t ask them, ‘Are you Jewish? Are you Orthodox?’ when someone calls,” Kaplan said. “Gary Schaer has furthered the stereotype that we only want to help ourselves.”

Hatzolah gets an average of 600 calls a year to its direct line, Kaplan said. He did not know what percentage was Jewish.

Councilman Gerardo Fernandez said he supports the squad.

“We never had a problem before. We voted for it. I voted ‘yes’ because they’re providing a service with the community. They’ve been doing it all along,” Fernandez said.

On Tuesday, Schaer said that the letter sent to Kaplan was purely out of concern for public safety.

“It’s not my personal feelings at play here. This affects the health and welfare of city residents,” he said. “What’s relevant is what’s in compliance.”

Reach Karen Keller at 973-569-7158 or

Assemblywoman Angelini to Seek Legal Opinion on Dual Office Ban as Schaer Assumes Third Public Position and Violates the spirit of the law

12 05 2008

Saying Assemblyman and Passaic City Council President Gary Schaer’s new role as acting mayor of Passaic seems to violate the spirit of the Legislature’s ban on dual office holding, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini said today she will request a legal opinion on the matter from the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS).

“As we are all well aware, the Legislature passed a feeble dual office holding ban last year which grandfathered in dual officeholders who were elected before February 2008,” explained Angelini, R-Monmouth. “This allows Mr. Schaer to serve as a state lawmaker and local councilman. However, now that he has the powers that come with being acting mayor of Passaic as well, it seems he may be violating the spirit of the ban on dual office holding. Since it’s a gray area, I will be requesting a legal opinion from OLS.”

Schaer, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, assumed the role of mayor late last week, following the resignation of Mayor Samuel Rivera who pleaded guilty to extortion in federal court.

Angelini questioned the viability of one person serving in three primary public roles.

“How can one person serve their constituents with excellence when you are juggling three different government positions?” she asked. “There aren’t enough hours in a day to make that possible. The bottom line is you cannot serve two masters. Somewhere in that mix, your constituents will be short-changed.”

Angelini said Schaer’s situation is a prime example of the need for an immediate and comprehensive ban on dual office holding and for stringent ethics reform in general, noting that the city attorney who ruled that Schaer could assume the mayoral office is the law partner of Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero.

“This entire situation is a web of ethical conflicts,” stated Angelini. “Not only did Assemblyman Schaer abstain from voting on legislation that prohibits newly elected public office holders from simultaneously holding more than one elective office, but he also serves as vice chair of the Assembly State Government Committee which promulgates these rules.

“Legally, this particular situation may very well fall through a loophole, which is troublesome in itself,” she continued. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s just plain wrong. And as a representative of the people, it’s my responsibility to protect their best interests.”

Angelini suggested that the Assembly State Government Committee debate and vote on bill A-1443, sponsored by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth and Mercer, which would eliminate the grandfathering clause within 30 days of enactment, when it meets on May 22.