Hoboken Chief of Police Anthony Falco filed a lawsuit last week against Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the city of Hoboken in federal court in Newark. The lawsuit says Zimmer has engaged in unfair practices and inappropriate behavior toward Falco due to politics and personal reasons.
Falco, who has been a member of the Hoboken Police Department for 42 years, was appointed chief in 2009. Soon after, in July of 2009, Zimmer became Hoboken’s acting mayor.
According to the complaint, rates of violent crime in the city of Hoboken have decreased, despite a decline in force size during the same period, under the supervision of Falco. Despite this, according to the suit, the mayor, and city staff who report to her, have undermined the chief’s authority by disregarding the chain of command.
The suit mentions the 2005 hit-and-run death of Mayor Zimmer’s father-in-law, Henry Grossbard, who was killed on April 23 of that year while walking his dog near River Street. The suit alleges that Zimmer holds a grudge because Falco headed the investigation and never solved the crime.
“Upon information and belief, the mayor’s conduct regarding Chief Falco is not based upon any meritorious ground, but rather upon personal animus towards him,” says the suit.
Zimmer said last week, “This is a personnel matter and ongoing litigation so I cannot comment. But on a personal note, I find it extremely unfortunate that police chief Falco has introduced my father-in-law’s tragic hit-and-run death into a lawsuit about his own compensation.”
Absence of an employment document
According to the 42-page complaint, Zimmer’s animus toward Falco has caused her to “arbitrarily and unreasonably disregard the past practice between prior mayors and chiefs of police of providing the chief with a document setting forth the terms of his employment.” The city has taken the position that the chief of police is not a member of an existing bargaining unit, and therefore does not enjoy the protection of the various collective bargaining agreements that protect other officers. Consequently, the chief does not know how many vacation days he is entitled to per year, or what health insurance and retiree benefits exist upon retirement, the complaint says.
The complaint also says that attorneys in City Hall have prepared an employment document, “However, despite repeated requests directly and via counsel since that time, the city refuses to release the draft or discuss its terms with the chief.”
Hoboken Chief of Police Anthony Falco filed a lawsuit last week against Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the city of Hoboken.
According to the complaint, in 2012, the city allegedly withheld uniform stipends and sick incentives from the chief for the first time, though other senior officers allegedly received the compensation.
A Jan. 16, 2013 letter later repeated the city’s position that it was not obligated to provide the chief with an agreement.
The letter also said, “Furthermore, I understand that the department’s senior officers will be receiving a base salary increase of 1.95 percent beginning in 2013. As is required by statute, Chief Falco will receive that raise in his base salary in 2013.”
Falco allegedly did not receive the increase in compensation. The complaint also states that it has been Hoboken’s convention to pay its chief of police and chief of fire the same base salary. Chief Falco’s salary has allegedly been $4,000 less than the fire chief’s salary.
Additionally, the complaint states that Chief Falco has not been paid for at least 278 overtime hours while acting as chief, including around-the-clock time during Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene.
Taking it personally
The complaint describes the situation with Zimmer’s father-in-law thusly: “In or about April 2005, Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s father-in-law, Henry Grossbard, was killed in a late night hit-and-run. Then-Captain Falco was the lead investigator for the case. Despite his and his team’s substantial efforts, the Hoboken Police Department was not able to solve the case, and the driver responsible for Henry Grossbard’s death has never been brought to justice.”
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.