Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Gov. Phil Murphy reached a tentative deal to advance the long-stalled nomination of acting State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Details about the agreement remain scant, though Callahan’s nomination is not expected to move immediately or without conditions, administration and Senate sources said.
The news comes less than two months after an independent probe into the handling of a sexual assault allegation lodged against a politically connected Sussex County man found no wrongdoing on behalf of Callahan or other top New Jersey State Police officials.
Laura Gallagher accused Ian Schweizer, the son of former Morris County Municipal Authorities Executive Director Glenn Schweizer, of sexually assaulting her outside a bar in the wee hours of the morning in January 2017. She said he pushed her up against her car and stuck his hands down her pants without consent.
Officers who later interviewed the younger Schweizer arrested him, believing he confessed to the assault, but in asking a municipal judge to approve the charges, the officers violated a recently passed bail reform measure that required they seek prosecutorial approval for certain warrants and summonses.
The charges against Schweizer were dismissed, and the scuffle turned into a standoff. Troopers at the Sussex County State Police Station filed a corruption complaint against prosecutors.
At a meeting with prosecutors in March 2017, Callahan, then a State Police lieutenant colonel, told officials with the Sussex prosecutor’s office the officers would face an internal affairs investigation over the complaint. The independent probe found that was an attempt to repair the damaged relationship between prosecutors and State Police.
The acting superintendent, the probe found, did not act improperly.
Newsweek first reported Callahan’s involvement in the sexual assault case.
Callahan’s confirmation had already been stuck in limbo for years by the time the Newsweek story hit. He’d been appointed as the NJSP’s acting head by Gov. Chris Christie in October 2017, and Murphy kept him on when he took over state government, nominating the 20-odd year State Police Veteran the superintendent’s post.
Sweeney in March told the New Jersey Globe concerns from state troopers were responsible for the earlier delay but did not elaborate. It’s not clear if those concerns were related to the quarrel at Sussex Station.
The pandemic made Callahan one of the most recognizable faces in state politics. He’s been a staple at the governor’s virus briefings for more than a year. The new movement on his nomination doesn’t mean he’s set to sail smoothly to confirmation.
He’ll need State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), the only member of the Senate to call Warren County home, to sign off on his nomination.