Although Cranford Police Chief Eric Mason has yet to officially announce his retirement — a move that was expected several months ago — officials say they have conducted interviews to fill his position if and when it becomes available.
During the Township Committee meeting Tuesday night, township officials said they are continuing to move forward with plans to appoint Mason as the full-time township administrator. Mason has simultaneously worked as police chief and interim township administrator since September, 2011.
"It remains our goal that Eric Mason becomes our administrator and that the police chief situation gets (resolved) as well," Commissioner Lisa Adubato Nesi said, adding that "this issue must transcend all politics.
Adubato Nesi was addressing the audience in response to a question by resident Jerry Dobbins, who asked why interviews were conducted for the police chief's position, and a lieutenant on the police department was selected to fill the slot, but no further action was taken. Dobbins criticized the governing body for moving too slowly in an effort to appoint Mason as the full-time township administrator and appint a new police chief.
"The morale in this whole building is deplorable. It's never been this bad. We need a full-time administrator," Dobbins told the Township Committee.
Mayor David Robinson said that while the governing body believes Mason will soon retire, they cannot appoint a new chief until it becomes official.
"We anticipate that there will be an opening at the police chief's level and until that happens, we cannot make that appointment," Robinson said. He would not confirm that a current lieutenant was offered the position, only that the process was conducted to fill a vacancy "should one open up."
Despite his initial plans to retire from the Police Department on May 31, Eric Mason continues to work as the Cranford police chief, while simultaneously serving as the interim township administrator.
Mason's transition from police chief to fulltime township administrator has been put on hold due to confusion involving pension guidelines that could prevent the chief from collecting his full police benefits if he jumps directly from the Cranford Police Department into the role of full-time township administrator.
"Obviously, no one is happy that this is still going on," Adubato Nesi said of the situation. "There have been attempts to get clarification from Trenton regarding the (pension) ruling. We have begun the conversations...and it's fair to say that we are trying to move forward with the belief that we are not getting an answer from Trenton."
Dobbins continued to press members of the governing body to set a date by which they will move forward by appointing a new police chief or township administrator.
"He can't do two jobs," Dobbins said of Mason. "He's got too many things going on. We need a full-time police chief and a full-time administrator."
Adubato Nedi took issue with the implication that things in town hall were "falling apart" and not being addressed in a timely manner.
"This is a situation that is difficult and it cannot be allowed to continue. Sometimes out hands are tied in terms of giving people the information they would like," Adubato Nesi said. "There will be a decision made, and it will be made soon."
Officials maintain that their intention is to have a decision made regarding the situation by the next public Township Committee meeting.
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