Gerbounka Fires off a Letter to Linden Police Chief Concerning Armstead’s Riding in PD Vehicles

Jumping into the middle of a contest for Union County Democratic chair a week ahead of a scheduled Feb. 21st special convention, former Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka, an independent, wrote a letter to the Linden Police Department charging sitting Linden Mayor Derek Armstead with improperly taking advantage of the city PD for his own private purposes.

“As President of the Linden Citizens’ Association and former Police Captain and Mayor, I would like to bring to your attention a series of incidents occurring in the Police Department that are very disturbing,” Gerbounka wrote in a Feb. 8th letter to David Hart, chief of the Linden Police Department. “It has been brought to my attention that Mayor Armstead has been using your department’s officers and vehicles as his personal taxi cab service, even though taxpayers purchased a luxury 2017 SUV Tahoe for his official use.”

Gerbounka said a police car driven by Officer Wayne Hanns, Jr. on Jan. 18th picked up the Mayor and his daughter at the Linden Democratic Club and drove them to Rutgers in New Brunswick. She exited the vehicle and it returned to Linden with the Mayor.  The Shift Commander was Lt. Joseph Cacioppo.   

“A similar incident occurred on February 2 at the Linden Fire Department’s Annual Dinner and Dance held at Galloping Hill Caterers in Union,” Gerbounka wrote. “A police vehicle driven by Officer Michael Diaz drove Mayor Armstead and his wife to this affair.  Around midnight, they were picked up by a marked ‘supervisor’s’ police vehicle driven by Officer Matusawicz (video recorded).  The shift commander was Lt. Joseph Cacioppo.”

A video of the mayor receiving a police department lift at Galloping Hill can be viewed here: 28635

Gerbounka told the chief he fears a developing pattern of “an abuse of one’s authority by Mayor Armstead at the expense of the Linden taxpayers.” The former mayor, who for years fought the Union County Democratic Party before Armstead defeated him in 2014, addressed his concern to the chief against the backdrop of a very competitive chairman’s race, wherein Armstead seeks the vice chairmanship of the party at the right arm of Acting Chair Colleen Mahr.

State Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) and Hillside Democratic Committee Chair Anthony Salters are also running to lead the county party organization. 

 The former mayor said he wants the PD to conduct a full investigation to verify his information, checking both phone and vehicle transmission tapes, including assigned case numbers for each transportation which is standard Linden Police Department policy on all calls for police services. 

Armstead did not reply to InsiderNJ when asked for comment.

Gerbounka – who insisted to InsiderNJ that he does not intend to run for mayor this year, wasn’t the only person locally who raised the issue. Likewise referring to the Galloping Hill allegation, Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey of the city’s 10th Ward questioned the sitting mayor’s use of a police department lift.

“On Friday, February 2, 2018 the Mayor and Council joined members of the Linden FMBA at the Annual Awards and Retirement Banquet. This event was a wonderful salute to Linden heroes. However, after the event, a marked Linden Police vehicle was dispatched to the Galloping Hill Caterers in Union, New Jersey so that the Mayor did not have to drive his city vehicle home. The video clearly shows the Mayor entering the marked Police vehicle,” the councilwoman said.

I find this alarming on multiple levels. First, our Police Department is understaffed and currently missing 25% of its compliment,” she added. “The Council has authorized the hiring of 153 officers. Due to retirements, vacancies, injuries, and officers in the academy, Linden only has 114 able bodies from the Chief down. On a busy Friday evening, taking even one patrol vehicle off the road represents appalling lapse in judgement and lack of concern for the safety of our residents.”

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