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Mathis Will Continue To Litigate For Reinstatement as Chief of Police

Bobbie Peer

Sunday, August 3, 2014 • 7:04am

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - "Today's court ruling was not in my favor to actively remain in my position. This was an emergent application to currently stay and lead the department. Litigation will continue as it is my goal to once again serve and protect the fine residents of Berkeley Heights as their Chief of Police," stated former Berkeley Heights Chief of Police Mike Mathis per a statement on Facebook regarding Thursday's court ruling. 

This statement comes after the ruling by Judge Mark Ciarrocca denied Mathis, who was seeking temporary restraints reinstating him to the position of Chief of the Township of Berkeley Heights Police Department.

Ciarrocca stated in the ruling that Mathis failed to demonstrate clearly or convincingly evidence a reasonable probability of success on the merits of his claim for reinstatement as the Chief of Police.

In addition, the ruling stated that Mathis failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the Mayor lacks the authority to unilaterally accept the Chief of Police's resignation as set forth in the protocols of the Berkeley Heights Township Municipal Code. Stating that the Mayor is the appropriate authority over the police division. 

The Court further finds that Mathis has not satisfied his burden of proof with respect to demonstrating an actual, immediate, and imminent threat of irreparable harm that is neither remote nor speculative. 

The Court found that reinstatement would impose a significant hardship on the township. 

Mathis, who has more than 29 years of service with the Berkeley Heights Police Department, last four as Chief, sent an email to the Mayor on June 16 advising his intent to retire from the Berkeley Heights Police Department effective July 1. Stating, "I will provide a formal letter of resignation in regard to this matter but this email shall serve as notice."

Mayor Joe Bruno later had a conversation with Mathis regarding the underlying issues behind this, leading to a heated exchange among the parties. The underlying issues are regarding policy debates involving ordinances regarding the police department as well as the compensation of the chief.

Bruno reached out to Mathis the following day to inquire as to whether Mathis intended to resign per his June 16 email. This is when Mathis allegedly responded affirmatively "Adios, a**hole" and hung up. This is not Mathis' recollection according to his attorney Vito Gagliardi.

Within an hour of that conversation, Bruno emailed the members of the Township Council advising the council that he accepts the "resignation due to retirement" of Chief Mathis. 

Approximately two hours later, Mathis responded to the email confirming his resignation stating that he regretfully leaves due to the lack of respect shown by Mayor Bruno and Councilman Woodruff.  

At the June 24 Township Council meeting, there was no "resignation" by Mathis before the Council for consideration. Mathis, thereafter, reconsidered his decision to retire and ultimately withdrew his retirement application with the Division of Pensions and Benefits. 

Mathis met with Bruno and communicated his decision to remain employed as Chief of Police, and sent an email attempting to retract his resignation on June 25. On June 30, Bruno emailed Mathis to "memorialize" prior conversations that his resignation had been accepted effective July 1.

When Mathis reported to work on July 1, he was advised that Captain Schafer was the "Officer-In-Charge" and the Acting Chief of Police on an interim basis as set forth in an Executive Order dated June 27, 2014. Mathis was removed from payroll and relinquished his service weapon, Township-issued vehicle, and key to his office, pending the results of this matter by court. Since, Lt. John DiPasquale has been appointed Officer in Charge.

Mathis claims that his removal from his position as Chief of Police was unlawful feeling that this attempt at removing him from his position without due process violates the Police Chief's Bill of Rights and further contends that the Mayor's actions violates his constitutional due process of rights.

Jim Patterson, the attorney for Bruno and the Township, argued that Mathis' resignation was made and accepted with due consideration by the Mayor who had full authority to do so.

Bruno had previously informed TAP into Berkeley Heights, "I am amicable to settle the remaining matters out of court."

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