Fulop Admin-JCPD E-Z Pass OPRA response raises serious questions about integrity
Real Jersey City submitted multiple requests regarding the City of Jersey City’s E-Z Pass accounts under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, but at least one response was certainly false, raising serious questions about the integrity of other responses provided by the Fulop Administration.
As part of a much broader investigation by Real Jersey City, multiple public records requests for documents concerning the Jersey City Police Department’s (JCPD) E-Z Pass accounts – which have been filed since September 2015 – received responses which raise serious questions.
One response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request with the City of Jersey City, filed September 22, 2015, which received a response of “The Police Department has no records,” asked for:
1. All tickets/fines for E-Zpass violations issued to vehicles owned by the City of Jersey City or any agency within the City of Jersey City from 7-1-13 until present day.
2. Any resolutions/ordinances passed by city council to pay tickets/fines for E-Zpass violations from 7-1-13 until present day.
Documents obtained by Real Jersey City from a source – whom requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation from the Fulop Administration – clearly show that the response given was not only false, but made available to many people.
As a professional courtesy, documents containing transactions, which include license plates, will not be posted. Attached at the bottom of the article are two letters, one signed by ex-Chief Robert Cowan, and another signed by Deputy Chief Joseph Connors, regarding JCPD E-Z Pass violations.
In the first letter from Cowan, dated June 5, 2014, to a supervisor in the “NY E-Z Pass Violation Processing Center,” the ex-chief acknowledged numerous violations “incurred by vehicles owned by the City of Jersey City” totaling $3,630.75. Cowan added that the “Jersey City Police Department violations were incurred while on duty for either training or conducting investigations,” and asked that the “fees be waived and a statement of the remaining balance be forwarded to” the JCPD.
In the second letter from Connors, dated June 25, 2014, the same day Cowan was removed as chief by Mayor Steven Fulop, to Council President Rolando Lavarro and members of the City Council, the deputy chief requested that the council approve a resolution to the E-Z Pass violations that adjusted the balance to $856.65.
According to Connors, apparently the “NJ EZPASS accounts weren’t replenished in a timely manner, which resulted in the violations.” The deputy chief also noted that many of the violations “dated back several years,” including tickets going as far back as May 22, 2006.
While the Fulop Administration clearly failed to provide proper documentation in line with the first part of the “E-Z Pass Violations” OPRA request, it’s not clear whether the city council ever passed a resolution to pay the bill. While unconfirmed, a source with knowledge of the council says that no resolution was passed, nor necessary, to pay the bill.
CHIEF PHILIP ZACCHE’S E-Z PASS OPRA REQUESTS ALSO RECIEVE “NO RESPONSIVE RECORDS”
In addition to “E-Z Pass Violations,” Real Jersey City also filed two OPRA requests for Chief Philip Zacche’s E-Z Pass records:
1. All records from E-ZPASS transponder assigned to Philip Zacche from 7-1-13 to 7-1-14.
2. All E-zpass records for vehicles assigned to Philip Zacche from 7-1-13 to 7-1-14.
The first request was filed on September 1, 2015, and the second request was filed on September 22, 2015 – both receiving a response of “no responsive records.”
According to a source with knowledge of the JCPD, Zacche in both his position as Chief of Investigations, and prior to that Chief of Support Services, would have a take home city vehicle, as well as an E-Z Pass transponder, made available.
After receiving no responsive records on both “Zacche E-Z Pass” OPRA requests, and in hopes of finding a E-Z Pass Transponder that would match with Zacche’s known schedule, and likely commute to and from his Monmouth County home, Real Jersey City requested:
1. EZ Pass total monthly invoice for all vehicles registered with the City of Jersey City from 7-1-13 to 7-1-14.
2. All billing/transaction records/statements for all vehicles registered with the City of Jersey from 7-1-13 to 7-1-14 including Transponder ID, Toll Location, Toll Payment, Date and Time.
That request returned hundreds of pages of records, but redacted “Transponder ID, Toll Location, Toll Payment, Date and Time” – essentially making it impossible to potentially identify a E-Z Pass transponder being used by Zacche.
Of note, Real Jersey City has previously reported that both Zacche and Connors are looking to retire in the near future.
Jersey City spokesperson Jennifer Morrill did not respond to an email asking why the JCPD failed to hand over the attached documents, and whether Zacche had an E-Z Pass assigned to him during the time periods requested.