State authorities on Monday charged Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler with ordering on-duty police officers to conduct escorts for his funeral business using department vehicles.
The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office has temporarily assumed control over the day-to-day operation of the Saddle Brook Police Department as a result, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced.
Kugler, 59, of Saddle Brook, was issued a summons charging him with conspiracy, official misconduct and corruption of public resources, Grewal said. A hearing was yet to be scheduled.
He also was suspended with pay pending the outcome of the case.
Kugler couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
“I’m shocked by the severity of the charges,” said Mayor Robert White, a retired deputy police chief. “He’s been chief a long time and he’s done a great job for us for many, many years.
“Like any other defendant, he’s innocent until proven guilty,” the mayor said.
Kugler – who'd declared another run for Bergen County sheriff -- ordered the uniformed escort during their regular shifts to cemeteries both in and outside of Saddle Brook for his Kugler Funeral Home January 2019 and August 2020, the attorney general said.
"Use of police vehicles for escort services is prohibited by township ordinance, with the exception of escorts for the municipal government of Saddle Brook or nonprofit organizations," Grewal said. "Kugler Funeral Home did not reimburse the Township of Saddle Brook for the escorts."
"As of today [Monday, March 8], the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has taken over supervision of day to day operations of the Saddle Brook Police Department," the attorney general added.
Bergen County Prosecutor's Chief of Detectives Robert Anzilotti will be the officer in charge for the time being, county Prosecutor Mark Musella said.
Kugler has been with the Saddle Brook police department 35 years, 25 of those as chief.
He announced in January that he was seeking the Republican nomination for another shot at sheriff following a loss to Democrat Anthony Cureton in 2018.
Kugler switched parties after Bergen's Democrats chose Cureton as their candidate. Cureton hammered Hasbrouck Heights GOP Mayor Jack DeLorenzo by a 54%-37% margin.
Kugler ran as an independent, finishing third in a field of four.
The chief was charged as part of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the OPIA Corruption Bureau, Grewal said Monday.
Deputy Attorney General Eric C. Cohen is prosecuting the case for the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA).
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