In a major development in Palisades Park, New Jersey, the Borough Council has voted to reinstate the Police Chief Anthony Espino and the Captain John Kuzfahramich, marking a new chapter in a controversy-ridden year for the local police department. The decision follows a Superior Court ruling that voided the promotions of the two officers due to a lack of quorum in the original council vote.
The last year has seen the department beset by legal actions and a prisoner escape which led to the retirement of then-officer in charge, Captain Shawn Lee.
The promotions of Espino and Kuzfahramich were among the final acts of former Mayor Christopher Chung, whose term ended amid a wave of controversy.
After the new Mayor Chong Paul Kim and new Borough Council members were sworn in early this year, they challenged the legality of the promotions, leading to a lawsuit and the subsequent Superior Court ruling that declared the promotions void due to procedural issues.
The council’s decision to reinstate Espino and Kuzfahramich was marked by complex legal discussion. The resolution saw Mayor Kim, Councilman Jason Kim, and Councilman Suk “John” Min voting in favor. Councilman Jae K. Park abstained, citing that he wasn’t in the council when the initial promotion action was taken. Councilman Michael Vietri recused himself.
Defending the promotions, Mayor Kim said, “we made a very good decision…we went through the interviews and all the records and each person’s ability to carry out their position.” He attributed the controversy to a procedural mistake rather than any fault of Espino or Kuzfahramich.
Councilman Jason Kim echoed these sentiments, pointing out the necessity of respecting the work of the two officials. “They deserve what they’ve been doing and they’ve been doing a good job as well. So we’re talking about the respect to the grant, so I’m going for the state as it is.”
The resolution was passed and met with applause from attendees. While this decision marks an end to the immediate controversy, the year’s events suggest that underlying issues may yet continue to affect the Palisades Park Borough Council and its police department.