The surprise after-hours discovery by Elmwood Park police of the town’s then-acting mayor and borough clerk behind locked doors in the municipal building was no reason for admonishment, the Borough Council decided Thursday night.
The decision rejected a recommendation by legal counsel to admonish Councilman Daniel Golabek and Borough Clerk Erin Delaney for the Dec. 13, 2019 incident at Borough Hall.
Eyebrows were raised in Elmwood Park not only over potential appearances but also because Golabek, while acting mayor, had participated in discussions about Delaney’s permanent appointment to the clerk's job last year.
Golabek is the 2020 campaign manager for Delaney’s ticket in Garfield, where she is a councilwoman.
The situation stems from what Delaney, 27, and Golabek, 24, said began as a conversation at Blue 42 Restaurant and Bar, a two-minute walk from Borough Hall, following a Dec. 12 work session.
Deciding that they should continue privately, they said, they returned to Borough Hall around 12:30 a.m.
A police officer was checking the building about an hour later when he said he heard a door close.
In his report, Officer Vincent Scillieri said he found a handbag next to the clerk’s desk in the courtroom.
It contained two pens and a blue Post-It note with the New Jersey State Police Totowa barracks address and phone number, Scillieri wrote.
After determining the bag wasn’t suspicious, Scillieri wrote, he continued the 1:30 a.m. inspection and heard “a faint noise.”
So he said he called Sgt. Robert Centkowski on his cell and asked him to come to the building.
Hearing an alarm in the tax office, the two checked and determined there was nothing amiss, Scillieri wrote in his report, a copy of which Daily Voice obtained from the borough under New Jersey common law.
A short time later, Scillieri reported, he and Centkowski saw lights on in the borough administrator’s office. That office leads to several others, including the mayor’s office, he noted.
The door was locked, the officer said, so they both knocked and announced their presence.
He and Centkowski heard a voice from inside, Scillieri wrote, but no one came to the door.
The officer said he and the sergeant went to scoop up the bag, then headed downstairs to police headquarters, where a dispatcher told him he’d seen a man and woman on a surveillance camera leaving the building.
Daily Voice obtained hallway surveillance video from the borough under common law. It shows Golabek and Delaney coming and going (see screen shot above), as well as the officers checking the building.
Scillieri said he and Officer Ryan Nichols found Golak and Delaney getting into their cars in the rear parking lot.
Golabek said they’d been inside “collecting some things from their office,” the report says.
Scillieri said he asked about the handbag and that both Golabek and Delaney said they didn’t know whose it could be.
“We’ll take care of it in the morning,” he said Golabek told him.
They both then drove away, Scillieri wrote.
The bag was listed as “found property,” his report says.
As word of the incident spread and rumors grew, the council enlisted legal assistance at a reported cost of roughly $20,000.
Their counsel recommended admonishments -- based, in part, on Golabek and Delaney entering the building without alerting police. The governing body rejected admonishment resolutions by a majority vote.
Golabek and Delaney denied any wrongdoing during Thursday night's public meeting, with the councilman saying that he has never gone to Borough Hall for anything other than “business and professional matters, period.”
He also said he assumed responsibility for the perception it created.
Delaney, meanwhile, said she was disappointed by how the situation was handled.
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