It’s Animal House Meets Super Troopers in a small Union County suburban town.
Six Mountainside police officers filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging the borough’s leadership has failed to counteract systematic violations and harassment they claimed to have experienced in the police department – including claims of an officer harassing his colleagues and at least one civilian with a sex toy dubbed “Big Blue.”
The suit claims that Mountainside internal affairs officer Andrew Huber would wave and throw a large blue dildo at people passing by the department’s detective bureau, even after a sexual harassment presentation that warned having a sex toy in the workplace would be grounds for termination.
Plaintiff Thomas Norton, a Mountainside officer, claims that reporting these incidents led to him being labelled a malcontent by then-Chief of Police James Debbie, who is now the town’s borough administrator.
Police dispatcher James Urban, one of the other plaintiffs, claims Huber stuck the sex toy into his face and hit him over the head with it while saying “I hope it doesn’t smell like what I think it smells like,” or something similar.
Other allegations in the suit claim that current Chief of Police Allan Attanasio repeatedly ignored these incidents, encouraged them, and even took part, at times. There was one alleged incident where a male police dispatcher went to a backroom in the police headquarters to get coffee. Murphy, Huber and police officer Michael Perrotta pinned the dispatcher on to a table and began to tickle him. One plaintiff heard about the story because Attanasio “laughed uncontrollably as he told the story.”
The suit claims that Fire Chief Anthony Peccorelli grabbed “Big Blue,” put on Murphy’s raincoat, and threaded the dildo through one of the openings at crotch level. In another alleged incident, Huber chased Peccorelli with “Big Blue” around police headquarters while Attanasio “shouted words of encouragement to Huber, including ‘get him’ and ‘put it in his mouth.’”
In a press release, the borough said that Huber and Lt. Thomas Murphy, who the suit alleges participated in and sometimes filmed the harassment had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by former assistant U.S. Attorney William Maderer, which the borough says began on April 25, before the complaint was filed.
The release did not say whether the leave was unpaid.
Difficult as it is to believe, the allegations regarding “Big Blue” are perhaps some of the least salacious in the lawsuit.
Among the volume of other claims are that Murphy frequently attempted to ram his work flashlight into other officers’ anus areas, that Huber would place his testicles on food or drink that other officers left unattended – a practice Huber allegedly called “braining” – and that Attanasio would point his revolver, mounted with a laser sight, at various officers within the department.
The suit also alleges that Huber and Murphy would attempt to get other officers to look down at their zippers and yell out “gazer,” insinuating they were gay, if the officers did so.
Huber would also allegedly hide completely naked in a bathroom stall to surprise other male officers who attempted to use the toilet there. Urban, who claims he once fell victim to this form of harassment, said in the suit that the incident left him reluctant to use the bathroom at police headquarters for fear that the incident might repeat itself.
Huber is also accused of standing naked on a bench in the locker room so that his crotch would be eye-level to other officers.
According to the suit, Huber did much of his harassment in the bathroom. He allegedly threw soiled toilet paper at an officer using the urinal, attempted to grab an officer’s genitals and intentionally dropped his towel, so he could bend over and try to touch another officer while doing so.
The suit also asserts that Murphy sexually harassed a female officer named Amy Colineri, who is one of the plaintiffs.
According to the lawsuit, Murphy told Colineri that he “wanted to sniff her chair,” wanted to impregnate her, and asked where she lived so he spy through her windows.
Christopher Feighner, another of the plaintiffs, said in the suit that he witnessed Murphy sniffing Colineri’s chair on more than one occasion.
Now Colineri tries to go in and leave work early to avoid Murphy and Huber.
Aiding the plaintiffs’ case is the inclusion of several videos of the alleged offenses, including ones of Huber accosting a civilian with a dildo and of Murphy swinging a bag containing a donut by his genitals while taunting a male dispatcher.
In one video, Murphy allegedly referred to never having a problem with his white goats until two white goats died and he replaced them with black goats – then joked that “the goats gave him problems because they were black and he used the n-word.”
Another video shows Murphy saying a police officer had called in sick because his arm hurt. “Murphy then simulates masturbation and fellatio with his arm until he pantomimes being ejaculated on in the eye,” the complaint says.
Murphy is shown in yet another video being trained to use a body camera and saying, “we just need them for the (n-words).”
The suit is not the first time that officers have brought the allegations to the town’s attention.
At a Borough Council meeting on Jan. 17, 2017, Joshua McMahon, an attorney for officer Michael Pasquale, attempted to bring the police department’s problems to the attention of the mayor and council members.
The incident ended with Republican Mayor Paul Mirabelli in a shouting match with McMahon.
If the suit is to be believed, Mirabelli is part of the problem. It claims that the mayor has a personal relationship with Huber. The suit alleges Huber bartended at the Mayor’s birthday party and claims that the families of the two men were socializing in photos posted to social media.
Perhaps more damning is the suit’s claim that, in 2009, Mirabelli, then a councilmember asked applications for promotion to police lieutenant how well they got along with and worked with Huber.
Further nepotism claims in the suit allege that Huber was promoted because of this relationship. despite having bottom-rank test scores.
The suit claims the same is true for Murphy, who the suit says is close with councilman Keith Turner, the police commissioner, whom the suit claims Murphy calls “Uncle Keith.”
The other claims in the suit are numerous. They include allegations that assert Huber sent pornographic and racist emails to Attanasio and internal affairs officers. These claims, which had been brought to the borough in February in a previous matter spurred a review of almost 10,000 emails and attachments sent and received by Huber, Murphy and the plaintiffs.Mountainside Complaint
Mountainside Police Statement