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New Jersey city leaders accused of corruption, racist behavior


On Monday, the mayor and police department of a New Jersey municipality were accused of abuse of power in unrelated incidents with which the city’s top official was criminally charged and the attorney general of the State recommended the ouster of the police chief and a sergeant.

Sal Bonaccorso, 63, who has been mayor of Clark since 2001 and came under fire a year ago after he was secretly recorded using racist language, is accused of falsifying records to benefit his landscaping business .

State officials say the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability determined that Bonaccorso operated his underground tank removal business, Bonaccorso & Son LLC, from his city office and used city resources. He is accused of using municipal equipment, including computers and fax machines, and directing municipal employees “for the sole purpose of running his private business,” according to a news release.

“Any elected leader who abuses his or her power and position and abuses public property and public employees for his or her own benefit, at taxpayer expense, betrays the public trust,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, in a press release.

The mayor was charged with second-degree misconduct, third-degree tampering with public records or information, third-degree witness tampering, fourth-degree forgery and fourth-degree falsification or falsification of records, a indicated the AG.

Bonaccorso could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Clark, a city of 15,200 located about 13 miles south of Newark, is about 90 percent white and 2 percent of its residents are black. The 4.3-square-mile community of manicured lawns and comfortable homes has a median income of about $114,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sal Bonacorrsovia NBC New York

The AG also detailed the results of a separate investigation Monday involving the Clark Police Department and allegations of racist, sexist and anti-Semitic behavior in a scathing 43-page report.

The mayor, police chief Pedro Matos and Sgt. Joseph Teston, who heads the internal affairs unit, allegedly used problematic language when discussing hiring practices, according to the AG report.

Platkin recommends the firing of Matos and Teston.

Matos and Teston could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Matos systematically failed to forward allegations of wrongdoing to the county attorney’s office and “violated standards of conduct related to derogatory comments and failed to conduct internal affairs investigations,” according to a statement.

The Union County Prosecutor and the state attorney general’s office took over the Clark Police Department in July 2020 amid allegations of misconduct. The state attorney general has promised a public report on the problems that exist, NBC New York reported.

Teston violated the standard of conduct for derogatory comments and failed to conduct an internal affairs investigation, Platkin said.

He was also arrested in 2022 outside a professional sports arena in New York, the AG’s office said. The charges were eventually dropped, but Teston admitted to hitting an unarmed person with a glass bottle and running away.

Platkin’s recommendations for firing officers are not binding, a statement said.

In 2022, audio recordings surfaced showing Bonaccorso using profanity and racist language, propelling the mayor and his small town into the national spotlight. Bonaccorso has resisted calls to resign. He apologized in April 2022.

Bonaccorso admitted that he was heard on secret audio recordings made by Clark’s former police lieutenant, Antonio Manata. Bonaccorso on the recordings uses the N-word and other derogatory terms. He also admitted to saying that female police officers were “disasters.”

The recordings were made by Manata in 2018 and 2019.

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