By DON STINE
Neptune recently asked all if its employees to complete a form that requests information about their possible involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC.
A questionnaire, approved by the Township Committee, was sent to all employees, including police officers, asking if they participated in the Jan. 6 siege and, if yes, to what extent. The questionnaire also allowed the employee to refuse to provide an answer.
However, at Monday’s Township Committee meeting, the committee did an about face saying employees no longer need to fill it out. The decision came after a grievance was filed by the Fraternal Order of Police objecting to the questionnaire saying it violated terms in the police contract.
“A letter has been sent out to all employees who received the questionnaire and I have also notified all department heads that employees do not need to respond,” township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said on Tuesday.
Mayor Michael Brantley defended the questionnaire saying it was intended to gather information that may help federal officials in their investigation into the Jan. 6 event. The FBI has already made arrests throughout the country in connection with the siege.
“We want to be ahead of curve and find out if any employees were there. We want to do anything we can to help authorities in their investigations. We don’t know what we can do with this information yet but we would like to know and be forewarned of who was there and who was not there,” he said.
Brantley said the form was issued “to just gather information” and no further action or penalties have been discussed.
“We will gather the information, discuss it, and then decide what actions, if any, to take,” he said prior to rescinding the questionnaire.
The letter, issued on Jan. 20 by Gadaleta at the request of the governing body, is headed with the words: “Garrity Warning.”
In United States law, the Garrity warning is an advisement of rights usually administered by federal, state, or local investigators to their employees who may be the subject of an internal investigation. The Garrity warning advises subjects of their criminal and administrative liability for any statements they may make, but also advises subjects of their right to remain silent on any issues that tend to implicate them in a crime.
“You are advised that this is an official Township investigation. You are entitled to all the rights and privileges guaranteed by the law, including the right not to incriminate yourself,” the questionnaire states.
The questionnaire was to be returned no later than Thursday, Jan. 28. “Failure to comply will be cause for the issuance of disciplinary actions,” it said.
But the FOP filed a grievance.
“We disagreed with the Garrity warning (questionnaire) and took the appropriate action and members are no longer under the obligation to fill it out,” said Sean Lavin, executive director for the labor counsel for the FOP. His statement was prior to the governing body rescinding the questionnaire.
Lavin said the FOP believes the questionnaire violates numerous police contractual rights and that the local Police Benevolent Association was advised of the FOP decision. The FOP represents 23 high-ranking police officers in Neptune and the PBA represents the rest.
Lavin said the FOP wasn’t given summation of the questionnaire or documentation to clarify why the questions are being asked. He added that the FOP, even though supporting Donald Trump’s presidency, has come out with a statement strongly condemning the attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
“We do not support this siege,” he said.
Gadaleta said that the FOP response “was one of the motivators” for rescinding the questionnaire.