CLARK — In the words of one municipal official, 2023 proved to be a “challenging” year for the Township of Clark.
In July of this year, Antonio Manata, aformerlieutenantwiththeClarkTownship Police Department, filed suit against the township for allegedly interfering with his pension payments in retaliation for his involvement with a 2022 scandal that saw accusations of racist and inappropriate conduct levied againstMayorSalBonaccorsoandthree of the police department’s highest-ranking officers. Mr. Manata also has filed similar charges against the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in regards to a multi-year internal affairs investigation into his behavior while on the force.
In October, the state’s Office of the Attorney General released the longawaited results of its investigation into the inner workings of the Clark Police Department.
The43-pagereport,whicheffectively exonerated the department’s rank-andfile officers of any substantial wrongdoing, recommended that both Police Chief Pedro Matos and Sergeant Joseph Teston be fired from their positions for misconduct and that a third officer, Captain Vincent Concina, be demoted before being allowed to conditionally rejoin the force.
TheAG’s office filed an official complaint against the township’s longstanding mayor on the same day that the report was released, citing allegations of fraud and misconduct related to his landscaping and undergroundstorage- tank-removal business.
The mayor has not been present at any public meetings since and is due to appear in court in early January.
On the recommendation of the AG’s report, the township has hired an outside mediation firm to navigate the disciplinary hearings for the three officers named in the report. The council also has announced publicly that it would not be footing the bill for any of Mr. Bonaccorso’s personal legal expenses.
Even amid mounting legal challenges, however, the township and its residents have continued to push ahead.
In June of this year, Clark’s longtime chief municipal prosecutor Jon-Henry Barr, was appointed by Governor Phil Murphy to the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), a campaign-finance watchdog agency that has seen its responsibilities recently grow to include new levels of oversight.
Then, in August, township officials worked alongside the police department to coordinate a township-wide crackdown on speeding and motor-vehicle violations by increasing police visibility throughout the community.
In May, the township’s senior center was rented out for use as a movie set.
The township’s recreation department also celebrated a great summer season this year, which was capped off by free musical performances in the downtown area and a number of successful community festivals.
The township will hold its annual reorganization meeting on Tuesday, January 2.