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PBA: Cranford Cop's Rights Were Violated

A PBA complaint charges that Police Chief Mason violated Sgt. Anthony Dobbins' union and First Amendement rights.

The Cranford Township Police Benevolent Association Local 52 has made an unfair labor practice complaint against the township on a claim that Police Chief Eric Mason violated the N.J. Employer-Employee Relations Act

According to the charge, filed by Donald B. Ross Jr, of the Westfield firm Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, Mason violated the union and free speech rights of Sgt. Anthony J. Dobbins who had questioned department morale in an email to PBA members in November.

"It’s not even a formal complaint unless PERC (NJ Public Employment Relations Commission ) decides this has merit and can advance forward," said Interim Administrator Joseph Hartnett. "They can conceivably write back to the PBA and say it doesn’t meet the law."

On Wednesday, Hartnett said he sent the information to township attorney Daniel J. McCarthy and was waiting on word of how to proceed. "Mostly, in my career we’ve been able to work things out locally," Hartnett said.

In the Jan. 11, statement of charge (which is attached to this article as a PDF), the PBA says Dobbins was confronted by Mason for an email he wrote on Nov. 16, 2012. In the email, according to the document, Dobbins wrote "With morale at an all time low in our department I think we need to work hard in the union to acknowledge great works and share in social times as the holiday seasons are upon us."

Dobbins, a 25-year veteran of the Cranford PD had been honored at past events along with other police officers.  According to the PBA statement, Mason questioned Dobbins reference to low morale on the force and allegedly tried to force him to recant his opinion in a new email.

The issue of police moral came up at various Committee Meetings when Dobbins father, Gerald, raised the issue during public comments. He even referenced a confrontation among police at a Nov. 27 public meeting.

"Part of the reason my son is being harassed all the time is because of what I say," the elder Dobbins told Patch in a phone call. "Somebody should do something about the morale."

Mason would not comment on the charges. "Any personnel related issues should be addressed to the Township Administrator, Joseph Hartnett," he told Patch in an email. 

Calls to the attorney, Ross, and Cranford PBA President Steve D’Ambola were not returned.

Monk January 17, 2013 at 05:29 PM
What's wrong with the Cranford PD? Why is the morale low?
Camilo H. Smith (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Monk, I don't know anything concrete. No proof that it's widespread, but from what I've heard and based on public comments at a handful of meetings, it may be related to the brief search for a new chief and disagreement over some recent promotions.
I. Rate January 17, 2013 at 06:49 PM
How much longer is the Township Committee (both parties) going to tolerate the perpetuation of incompetence and malfeasance by this police chief? Put this current incident aside for a moment, and It is well documented at this point, going back to the beginning of Mason's tenure in 2003, the documented issues of Mason's intolerance of individuals with opinions not congruent with his own -just listen to the current video of him on You Tube "Racist Police Chief". That video highlights perjured testimony he gave in a lawsuit against the township by a police widow in 2009 who ultimately prevailed against the township for over $1 million when all is tallied. There are also other documented cases of Mr. Mason's malfeasance and improprieties which the governing body and press seem to turn a blind eye to; namely 1) Chapman lawsuit which cost town over $800k, 2) Pending Lanza lawsuit, 3) covering up the illegal carport constructed at Mason's father's home on Cranford Ave, and 4) not disclosing his wife's business income & interests on Financial Disclosure Forms until 2010 - the year he was getting divorced, which amounts to lying and is grounds for discipline under Chief Mason's policies he subjects his own officers to. Mr. Mason only has a Divorce of Bed & Board, therefore his ex-spouses' business interests should be reported, especially since she is on his health benefits. NJSA 40A:9-22 et seq.
Camilo H. Smith (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 07:48 PM
I. Rate, Not turning a bling eye to anything. Thanks for your lengthy comment. If you have any legal documents to substantiate those claims, please upload them to this article by clicking the "Upload photos and video" button above, or email them directly to Cranford@patch.com. That video is not "current" as you say, since it has been addressed on the record many times, for nearly a year. If you'd like to make your case in more depth fashion, please consider starting a blog here: http://cranford.patch.com/blog_posts/new . Thanks.
07016 January 17, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Mason has yet had to answer w/ regard to his directive for CPO not to pursue a now convicted killer. It's been 7 yrs., where's the ACCOUNTABILITY? It is our understanding, a police chief's role is to serve and protect us. In our case, he failed at both. I've written letters, attended township meeting to ask for help yet no answers, no change. Why send victim's child to County, knowing there isn't anything they can do? Why not allow CPO to pursue driver? Why not allow second, very diligent, CPO to follow up with a visit to the residence based owner based on registration? It's not only your job but, you already knew of reports that week involving this accused and now convicted person. Yes, we want answers. Yes, we can change. Yes, there's blood on your Chief's hands. A now retired Cranford FIREFIGHTER sat outside our family's home until killer was caught. This was on his personal time. Nary a word from CPD. Later, our family told the detective where to go to catch this killer. Mason & CPD received MERIT Citations. Why? You let the killer go! Nothing will change what happened but, this still needs to be answered & remedied for potential future victims & family. It's called Protocol. Establish it. Enforce it. CPD holds no accountability, they do not protect in the hour of need. They don't answer a family who wants answers and change. Lastly, if you get pulled over I recommend you gun it, under the direction of Eric Mason you will not be pursued... :(
Camilo H. Smith (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 09:26 PM
RC, Are you referring to the murder that was brought up at one of the last committee meetings before 2013?
07016 January 18, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Yes Camilo, and still no answers from Chief Mason. Somewhere along the line, he will have to answer on his inability to serve and protect that night. I'd also like to know, who awards CPD Merit Citations? I need a word with them too.
Camilo H. Smith (Editor) January 18, 2013 at 08:54 PM
RC, Email me ( cranford@patch.com) , I've read the stories about that tragic incident, but I'd like to know more from your point of view why you feel the system failed you.

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