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Release of Cranford Police Chief's Phone Call Raises Eyebrows

A recording of a nearly eight-year-old phone call with his son surfaced shortly after Chief Eric Mason was named the fulltime township administrator.

One day after Cranford Police Chief Eric Mason announced his plans to retire from the Police Department , a video has surfaced that includes audio from an eight-year-old phone call with his son in which Mason jokes that his day was going well because he "didn't have to kill any white people."

The video, placed on Youtube by someone calling himself or herself GazeeboBricks, features photos of Mason as audio from the call between him and his son Christopher plays in the background. According to the township attorney, the call was made shortly after Mason was named Police Chief in 2003. Mason is the township's first African American chief.

As the controversy erupted, Mason was unavailable for comment. His secretary, Jennifer Burns, said Mason is out of the country on a week-long vacation. GazeeboBricks was contacted by Patch through his YouTube account, but has not responded to requests for comment and additional information.

Mayor David Robinson said he spoke to Mason just before he left for vacation. When they spoke, the chief alerted the mayor to the release of the video.

"He indicated that the (recorded phone call) was from years ago and it was a private conversation with his son about family matters," Robinson said. "The Township Commitee at the time determined that it didn't affect his ability to be the police chief, so a retread of it in 2012 doesn't affect his ability to be the township administrator."

Deputy Mayor Andis Kalnins said he knew nothing about the video until it was brought to his attention Thursday.

"What I based the decision (to appoint Mason as township administrator) on was his eight years of exemplary service as police chief and the last six months of service as the acting administrator, and doing a very good job at that," Kalnins said.

Following the Feb. 28 Township Committee meeting, during which Robinson announced that Mason would be taking on the township administrator job, the mayor said members of the governing body "spent a fair amount of time deliberating this appointment." The decision to appoint Mason was unanimous among members of the governing body.

In looking to fill the position, the mayor said officials also contacted the League of Municipalities to discuss "best practices" and obtain guidance. One piece of advice from the League indicated that "the best candidate is the person the governing body feels most comfortable with," Robinson said.

"Chief Mason has earned that right to be considered township administrator," Robinson said Tuesday.

Township Attorney Phil Morin said he has not spoken to any of the members of the governing body regarding Mason's comments in the video, but he believed the committee members should discuss it. Morin was appointed township attorney in January. Morin spoke favorably of the chief's "temperament, demeanor and management style."

While Kalnins and Robinson did not dismiss the remarks made by the police chief in the video, they each expressed their concern about the apparent security breach within the police department that led to the release of the recorded phone call. It is not known whether the recording was obtained recently, or if someone copied it when it was made and waited until Mason's retirement annoucement before releasing it embarrass the outgoing chief.

"I think a larger concern is who stole this information," Robinson said. "Clearly, there is somebody out there who has a vendetta against Eric Mason."

Daniel Aschenbach, who has known Mason for much of his police career and was Cranford mayor when Mason was appointed police chief and again when he was made the acting township administrator, stands by him.

"This was maybe eight years ago, at the time Chief Mason was appointed chief. It was a rumor referenced online often," according to former Mayor Daniel Aschenbach, "It was a private conversation between father and son on the stress of being Cranford's first black police chief. He apologized then to Township Committee members individually. I believe it was a crude reference in private to the worst imaginable thing. Cranford is a progressive community and will understand [that is was not said in a] mean context. I believe Chief Mason has treated all individuals in an inclusive and open way. Tough jobs take tough skin."

The video, depicting a screen shot of the township's website behind an audio recording of a phone call between Mason and his son Christopher was posted on YouTube just hours after Tuesday's Township Committee meeting. The video also appeared on Cranford Talk, a local community forum, where detractors also commented on the chief's qualifications, as well as the context of the phone call that can be heard on the recording.

While it is not known who obtained the recording of the phone call from the police department, or who made the YouTube video, it appears to reflect a joke between a father and son meant to diffuse a tense situation in the wake of Mason's appointment as the first African American police chief in a town that, according to the 2000 census, was 93 percent caucasian.

The following exchange is transcribed from the from the call. To hear the full five-minute conversation, click on the link to the YouTube video.

Christopher (Approximately one minute into the call):"How are things going?"

Mason: "So far, so good....didn't have to kill any white people." (Laughter)

Christopher: "Anyone try to backstab you or anything?"

Mason: "Yeah, that's an everyday occurance...there's a few people grumbling, but they'll get over it."

Mason goes on to say that he had to make some personnel moves recently. The discussion then briefly switches to talk about local sports.

Christopher (Approximately 4 minutes into the call): "Well, I was just calling to see how everything was."

Mason: "So far, so good."

Christopher: "Are you enjoying it?"

Mason: "Yea....(inaudible) Yeah man, I'm the H.N.I.C. [Head N**** In Charge], man."

Robinson announced during Wednesday's township committee meeting that Mason had accepted the appointment as fulltime township administrator and the criticism was swift. In a Patch poll that accompanied the announcement of Mason's plan to retire and take on the new post, 56 percent of voters said they were "not at all happy" with the news, while 36 supported the decision. Comments on the story included a rant on "double-dipping" by municipal employees and concerns about municipal salaries. But the vitriol against Mason's hire dominated the discussion by residents, who questioned whether he had sufficient credentials or experience to handle the job on a permanent basis.

Some officials believe that the release of the audio tape is an attempt to sabotauge his acscension to the new post. 

Mason joined the in 1977 at the age of 20. He rose through the ranks and was named captain in 1998. He was named chief in July of 2003, replacing Harry Wilde. In 2010, Mason was named president of the . Mason's retirement will go into effect on May 31 and he will be credited with 35 years of service. As part of his pension, he will be paid 70 percent of his last salary as police chief, while also earning the salary he will earn as the township administrator. His pension also covers his medical expenses. The exact salary that Mason will earn as township administrator hasn't been made available, but a  approved by the Township Committee on Nov. 14, 2011 sets the salary for a township administrator between $106,390 and $148,948. The same ordinance sets his salary as police chief between $112,497 and $142,000.

This fall, Mason took over as interim township administrator when former administrator Marlena Schmid was placed on administrative leave in early September of 2011. This is not the first time a police chief has stepped into the role of township administrator. In 1999, former Police Chief Harry Wilde served in the position following the resignation of John Laezza. Wilde served as the administrator until Schmid was hired.

Mason not only handled his duties as police chief but as acting township administrator as residents struggled to begin rebuilding in the wake of . Flooding from the storm resulted in the evacuation of town hall and several municipal departments, some of which remain housed in trailers behind the . As acting administrator, Mason has worked with FEMA as well as state and county governments to help secure funding for the flood-ravaged township.

Leash March 05, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Whether Mr. Mason stated these comments 8 yrs ago, privately or not, unfortunately they came to light. They are derogatory and they are offensive. The problem I have is that the roles reversed. When a white person with authority were to make any type of racist remark or statement whether privately or in public, they are demanded to make a public address to apologize and without a doubt in time are forced to resign, so what in this instance makes it o.k. because now it is an African American who made the racial remarks. And no we owe absolutely nothing to Blacks for slavery. Yes there were all kinds of slavery in the past history. With whites, hispanics, blacks, you name it. There are still racism today. I am white, I have a black co-worker and I can't tell you how racist she is to me on a daily basis & gets away with it. I could in turn be ignorant, throw words back at her but instead I am professional. HR's been involved and have documented it, & nothing has been done. I was threatened while pregnant and in front of HR personnel. So, all races are guilty of being racist and we can't control what has been done in the past. White women were prostituted out, Black women were slaves & maids in homes. Black men were forced on farms to work, I could go on. In the end, today, if you are in an authoritative position, black, white, hispanic, asian you name it, you should be responsible for whatever comes out of your mouth, typed or texted to anyone. Bottom line.
Jennifer J March 05, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Eric Mason was not the first black police chief, Joshua Bryant was. Check the township history books - he is buried in Fairview Cemetery.
Joy March 05, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Shame on Cranford Township Committee for allowing this to continue. Imagine a white police chief saying, 'I didn't have to kill any black people today.' Mason is a racist, and has no place in pubic administration.
Marie B. March 05, 2012 at 02:29 PM
We owe you??? We owe you nothing. This is 2012. GET OVER IT!!!!
Marie B. March 05, 2012 at 02:33 PM
That is the silliest comment I've read in a long, long time! You weren't a slave. Stop using history as an excuse to think the white man owes you something. You are owed nothing!!! Take responsibility for yourself. Racist people just like you are the problem in this country. Anyone with such an ignorant racist attitude such as yours is. Yes, sadly, people like you come in all colors. Get over it. The world owes you nothing.
Marie B. March 05, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Sadly this is not unusual that this barely gets any media attention. We all know that if this had been a white man saying this, it would be on all the national news stations. It was the same in New Orleans when, then mayor nagin said he wanted his city to be a "chocolate city" If that had been a white mayor saying the opposite, the uproar would be everywhere. Just so sick of the double standard toward racism in this country.
likwidlizard swamp March 05, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Obama must be so proud.
likwidlizard swamp March 05, 2012 at 06:50 PM
This is typical of uppity nondeserving predjudise UNentitled vermin who belong back on the plantation to learn thier proper place in society. And this town wants this bozo to have more power. Hilarious, ignorant progressive liberals will be sooo disapponted when he and his family(the hired help) are caught embezzling God knows how much money from the coffers. We'll be reading about this clown in the future, count on it. And the news won't be about help others, only himself.
Willie Horton March 05, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Hmm....had he said he was sorry he didn't kill any white people today, then I would be concerned. Otherwise not so much.
Willie Horton March 05, 2012 at 09:25 PM
WOW...now tell us how you really feel!
Who_Knew March 06, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Who knew Cranford had so many racists? All it took was one black guy to be appointed to a seat of power to bring out the worst this township has to offer.
Monk March 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
My impression is that racism is perpetuated more by obsessing over it than by actual racist actions or exchanges. That Mason would instill this racial obsession in his son with those dopey comments eight years ago is the only part of this scandal that bothers me.
Gail M. Ferguson March 06, 2012 at 04:40 PM
And WHERE was this freaking audio tape 8 YEARS AGO!!! We could have nipped this guy in the bud instead of paying him a huge salary. Way told hold out, you IDIOT!!!
Michele March 06, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Wow. I do not want the man to be our Township Admin because of his remarks, and in particular because he said them to his 8 year old son, but your remarks are far worse. What bothers me most is that Mason imparted his racist views on an 8 year old.
Michael Bell March 06, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Imagine we were all held accountable for the stupid and inappropriate things we have said in private conversations. Can anyone claim to have kept all their private conversation completely politically correct? If I were judged by all the stupid things I have said in the past, I would be serving a life sentence right now. Whether or not this guy is qualified for this post is a separate issue, but this call is absolutely meaningless to that question. If you think otherwise, than ask yourself if you are ready to be held accountable for every private comment you have made throughout your life - because that is the standard you are applying here.
asabriata74@gmail.com March 07, 2012 at 03:11 PM
DearCranford Resident: "I graduated from a highly competitive college with high honors, studying politics". -A college degree means nothing today. Especially with a laughable major like politics. Maybe if you majored in something substantial like economics or finance we would all take you more seriously. Get out of Cranford for 10 minutes and you will realize you are in fact not that smart. The majority of successful people hold advanced degrees. You sound like an occupy wall street loser that can't find a real job that pays more than $60k. Townies.....
Alan Cooper March 07, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Nervouswhiteman you are truly dumb and openly racist. His statement: "didn't have to kill any white people." is saying that 'he's glad he didn't have to kill anyone who is white', because that will almost always bring up heavy investigations against him. he's in a majority white city and the criminals are mostly white and he didn't want to have to kill one that day. Otherwords; he's glad everyone was good that day. He isn't racist, you're racist and very chicken scared of black men with guns and permission to use them.
Brenda March 08, 2012 at 03:41 AM
That was general conversation. If he'd been a racially motivated black person the way it's being made to look, don't you think he would have rolled out a little more than that! Black people go through alot of BS from whites and blacks ESPECIALLY if they are in charge. I see nothing wrong with what he said. Plenty of us have said way more than that.
Jerry D March 08, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Hey Brenda - got new for you - he was caught and recorded, and is forever documented as a racist. You have nothing to prove that whites are racist, where is your documentation? Just like we now have more documentation of Obama's radical ties. Where is Chief Mason's apology to the community? Funny how the Star Ledger is not reporting anything?? MASON is also a documeted liar: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-unpublished/2009/a3391-07-opn.html
Nervouswhiteman March 10, 2012 at 08:10 PM
What a cover-up.... Just to prove again if it were a White man not a "H.N.I.C." it would be all over the media....But not from a " HEAD NIGGER IN CHARGE "
William F March 11, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Now I'll be honest and say that I do not believe that Mason is a bad racist. I got into it with his nephew a few years ago and called him a "browny" for flippping me off which ended up in a big argument and he ran crying to his uncle (mason) . Mason came out side and basically told me to ignore his nephew and told his nephew to shut up. If he was a complete racist he would have tried to get me on some racial slur bull. I do think it is ironic that the three black cops in cranford all have problems, one was sent to jail for fondeling women, Nadia (the cop) might as welll be wearing the equivilant to a black panther uniform since he has shown her hatred for the white man on numerous occasion and all her co-workers agree, and now Mason. I think that people should stop trying to proove points and grow up and just do their jobs like the rest of the police.
William F March 11, 2012 at 03:35 AM
An uppity white person would get offended by this due to the fact that we cannot call black people the same word ni**** that they call themselves. So if we make a dating site called "whitepeoplemeet.com" your telling me there would be no problem with that? Or how about a tv channel designated for the white man like Black entertainment television? White people are uppity due to the fact that we must walk on eggshells all the time. Maybe we are becoming the one who need to gain our freedom of speech back, or maybe just permission to say things that are not racist but because some one may have made a joke in the past we look racist. I can not even tell you how many times i have heard a black guy say "what is that supposed to mean" over the most irrelevant things. The white people hire mason, pays him, and supported him. Lay off the killing of us white people and maybe thanks us for being fair. Also, a smart black guy does not refer to himself as a nigger. That is a good way to show your lack of respect.
Nervouswhiteman March 11, 2012 at 07:22 PM
SHAME ON THE "H.N.I.C." TALKING THAT WAY TO HIS 9 YEAR OLD SON. POSTED NOW ON www.nj.com but some how some of the details are missing.
Former Resident March 11, 2012 at 11:06 PM
I'm white, and man, am I glad I finallly left this town. The comments reveal how racist the town really is, and the commenters who keep talking about how he had this conversation with his 8 or 9 year old son (as opposed to his grown up son 8 or 9 years ago) show just how stupid most of the residents are too.
Just a taxpayer March 12, 2012 at 12:55 AM
It was not his 8 year old (at the time) son he was talking too, he has a son in his 20's from a previous marraige
Sheryl Davis March 12, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Since you want to do a lot of Cleaning Up in Cranford...what about some of the Police Officers? if it is going to go there...why not fill the pot some more/
Nervouswhiteman March 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM
@"just a taxpayer. Thanks for the info about the ages & previous marriage too (now I can understand the reason of divorce too, like I really care). So in your little mind it's OK mason to speak of himself as a nigger in charge to his son at any age, wow what a role model? What a pity for his son and the real tax payers of Cranford to have such an uneducated & racist speak of killing White People too by the chief of police and for Cranfords sake hopefully not the townships new administrator. ps. Is this you Christopher
Ned Davenport March 12, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Just let Eric retire as Police Chief already so I can get my Captain bars and Joey and I can waste budget money on silly things like GPS. Plus, I can work my real estate deals in an office that has a door.
Nervouswhiteman March 15, 2012 at 09:40 AM
@ ned davenport sounds like you are one of Cranfords finest... What a waste you useless waste of our Tax dollars.... You must of really sucked it up (not earned) to get your bars....LOL Every dog has their day...Join masons clan, sorry I forgot you already are one..Just maybe you are the one who released the tape so you can work on your real estate deals behind closed doors. ANOTHER USELESS OVER PAID PILES OF SH_T. And one more thing, I hope you safely are able to finish your blood sucking without something tragically happening to you or your family. Be careful God is watching and you know He works in mysterious ways.... You Scum of the earth.
Nervouswhiteman March 17, 2012 at 06:24 PM
For those of you who are not familiar with Cranford New Jersey, or Chief Mason - you can read this court decision from 2009 where he was found to have provided "non-credible testimony" and "inconsistent statements": Google search "Wilde v. Cranford" OR law.justia.com/cases/new-jerse­y/appellate-division-unpublish­ed/2009/a3391-07-opn.html

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