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Chatham Police Chief Says Email to Hopatcong Mayor Ignored

Hopatcong resident says leadership and communication lacking from borough officials.

Below is an email from Hopatcong resident Philip Crosson Jr., the Chatham Borough police chief, to Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 1:36 p.m. Crosson said the entire Hopatcong governing body and business administrator were copied on the email. As of Sunday at 2 p.m., Crosson has not received a response.

UPDATE: Crosson spoke on Sunday afternoon with Officer Robert Haffner, Hopatcong's OEM coordinator.

Crosson on Monday said:

"I did speak with Officer Haffner yesterday afternoon and he did update me on some of the efforts the Borough used to attempt to contact residents. Some of us who did not have access to the internet were unable to receive the updates via the web and felt that the town should have delivered some type of informational flyer door to door. Officer Haffner identified that those initiatives were in fact implemented however; it appears that our neighborhood may not have received those notices for whatever reason and he is going to look into that for us."

Crosson's original letter:

Good afternoon Mayor Petillo,

I know that you are most certainly inundated dealing with the chaos created by the series of recent storms that have crippled our area. I too have been busy dealing with the very same issues. During the previous 12 days, I have been at work sometimes around the clock manning our emergency operations center, meeting 2 to 3 times daily monitoring the progress of JCP&L and working with regional and local managers to ensure prompt service to our residents. At the end of the day today, almost all residents in the community that I serve will be fully powered.

Like many other residents in Hopatcong Borough, I face both personal and professional issues during these events and currently my wife has very limited mobility due to a recent surgery and has not been fully capable of assisting with her own care or that of our daughter. This struggle for us has been exacerbated due to the lingering effects of this weather event and the demands placed on me by the community that I serve.

With that said, I would like to receive an official response from my local elected officials detailing the steps that are being taken on a local level to deal with the issue of extended power loss. I do not want to hear that the town officials are on conference calls with the JCP&L representatives and the Governor because I too have sat in on those and have found them to be completely ineffective and lacking in any real substance. Nor do I want to hear that they are serving food at the local shelter because that can be handled by the Red Cross and other volunteers. Local officials here in the municipality where I serve have exerted appropriate pressure on the public utilities and as a result have achieved very positive and rapid results for their residents.

I understand that the Borough of Hopatcong does not control JCP&L however; the elected officials do have access to direct contact with them and as such, should be doing whatever it takes to represent the people who elect them to office in these situations.

Moreover, I also found the communication relative to the storm and recovery operations with the community to be severely lacking during the critical stages and it has only slightly improved almost two weeks into the crisis. Leadership is critical in a crisis and communication is critical to solid and effective leadership.

Unfortunately, from what I observed during this event, both were seriously lacking. I send this correspondence to express my concerns and opinions about the incident in its entirety and not to be critical of any one or two persons. As a lifelong resident of Hopatcong it has been my observation and personal experience on many occasions and dealings at Borough Hall that the overall philosophy, especially among some of the municipal officials and employees, is that the public can wait.

Service to residents in many areas of municipal operations is lacking. In tough times like this, real leaders step up and take extraordinary measures through creativity and forward thinking to get the job done. To be clear, I am not one of those people who expect government to take care of me and I have taken measures to prepare my family to include powering my home with properly installed generator power.

However, I will hold my governing officials accountable and when all is said and done; I would appreciate a breakdown of what my elected officials have done for me in this situation. I would like to understand the steps taken to ensure that my interests were represented properly.

To be absolutely fair, I would like to commend the first responder emergency service personnel; Fire, Emergency Squad, Police and DPW for their bravery and dedication to serve the community in extraordinarily difficult conditions. They always perform first rate in their selfless service to the community. In my humble opinion, Borough officials and departments should follow the lead of the police department.They have been exemplary in dealing with residents and continue to do their best in fielding questions and complaints.It is evident to me that there is solid leadership in place at the Hopatcong Police Department.

Mayor, in closing I have been a lifelong Republican and have never deviated from that belief until this past local election. I believe we need some change in philosophy in our town and until I see that change I will continue to vote outside of the party line while encouraging my family and friends to do the same.

Thank you for your personal attention to this matter and I will patiently await your response.

Philip J. Crosson, Jr. - Chief of Police
Carteret Rd.

Maryann Edwards November 12, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Nothing to settle down for, our mayor failed us. We need a new municipal government and we need to give JCP&L the boot. This is the third time in 14 months that they have failed us.
Matthew McDaniel November 12, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Thanks Phil, I would love to have you as our mayor. You have my vote. Again thank you for reaching out.
Jessica November 12, 2012 at 01:49 AM
To be fair do you think with all that was going on the Mayor should have been sitting down in her office answering emails? If she was doing that every would tear her apart for that.
Brian Burns November 12, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Well said Philip. Thank you all that helped out in our time of need. Vermont trial has power as of 8pm
I love Hopatcong November 12, 2012 at 03:19 AM
To be fair Chief, who are you kidding? Maybe we should be checking your records in Chatham. Let's see all the OT and comp time that you have put in for over the last 2 weeks. What did you do for your neighbors out of the kindness of your heart? While the mayor of Hopatcong and several council members spent the last 2 weeks running everywhere and being true leaders, you were collecting a sizable public salary complaining about what you do not have. Personally I am glad that you have aligned with free spending Democrats like Mara Modes, it is obvious that you are more interested in your own welfare and nobody else.
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Do not hold your breath Betty. I will bet all the bleeding hearts in town will be saying to leave the Mayor and the Borough Council alone. I for one will be asking, and I hope many more will also be asking the same question at the next Borough meeting. Why it took 10 day for Mayor and Borough Council to finely question JCP&L on the information they were giving out and the phones numbers that did not work. Or was that just to take the heat off them?
Brenda Breheny November 12, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Jessica, of course you are right, she shouldn't have taken the time to respond to the many, many emails she was receiving. You are right to say (in not so many words) that it would have been time away from her real responsibilities as mayor. There are so many other things that she could have been doing, instead, from her desk to help all of her citizen through this time of major crisis (and I do not mearly suggest only the issues with JCP&L). Some examples that I will cite here are: #1 plan emergency town meetings (more than just one) to address the public on all issues at hand (power & otherwise); #2 continual updates to everyone regarding power restoration, including updated iteneraries of what was done and when by each town official to assist in this matter, as well as the exact responses they received; #3 continually advising where to get potable & non-potable water; #4 timely communication on where to get gas (this would have been extremely helpful when we were all experiencing the shortages); #5 where to dispose of your garbage since there was no pickups allowed due to road closures; and the list goes on and on.....and on, still.
Brenda Breheny November 12, 2012 at 03:26 AM
And I know that a lot of this information, along with other information she, herself, should have been distributing, eventually appeared on the Hopatcong Police FB page, and maybe she thinks this is not part of her job description, but when we are all in crisis mode, it is her DUTY to keep us all informed of important matters, no matter how small they may seem to her. Communication (which we all know is key) from Hopatcong's government has been seriously lacking to its townspeople in a HUGE way and has become a disaster in itself. We all, obviously, use social media to connect on the web, however, there are still many residents who do not/can not do that, so how does the information reach them? What ever happened to caring about the community that you lead? It was sadly forgotten by our borough's government in our greatest time of need. This situation WILL NOT be easily forgotten by so many!
Brenda Breheny November 12, 2012 at 03:29 AM
And, to add......I would definitely vote for Phil for Mayor!
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:29 AM
It can't come fast enough.
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Phil I will put signs all over my lawn if you run.
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Then maybe she should have gotten some help from people that had experience dealing with this type of disater.
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I could not have said it better.
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:40 AM
No what she should have been doing was handing her job, which is to run the town in good times and bad times.
S. Coventry November 12, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Hopefully the mayor and Mr. Bunce shared their generators with her neighbors
Michele Guttenberger November 12, 2012 at 06:26 AM
It was important for the Mayor to be at the shelter. This was a voting poll location and she impressed the clueless by being there and insured that Bunce and Gallant got enough votes to beat out the 2 opposition council candidates. Her Pastor was there too and he gave a sermon at the shelter. A member of this congregation told me the Pastor told them to vote all Republican. So the Mayor achieved her objective by being present at the shelter - her favored council members were re-elected. So that is all that matters. Funny after the elections the shelter did not need spiritual counseling by the former Norwegian Cruise Line Chaplin. Nice letter but Hopatcong is filled with lemmings and the inteligent people of Hopatcong don't speak up nor attend Town Meetings. I do attend Town Meetings and protest what I see that is wrong but I only have 5 min and I am laughed off. We have a Town Attorney that represents the BIG MONEY landholders of Hopatcong that get special concessions and BIG Real Estate TAX exemptions but no one cares because it is all legal. No one puts up a fight. We are so agreeable to a town wide tax reassessment. No one supported my protest at the Town Meeting. So this JCP&L drama will pass too - Hopatcong people just complain and forget and Pastor K knows how to round up his Bible folks to support the Mayor & co when the votes count. It's a done deal. They won the election and your letter is just an annoyance in their grand scheme of things.
Brian November 12, 2012 at 07:14 AM
I couldn't agree more. Cannot wait to hear a response.
Mir November 12, 2012 at 09:05 AM
Jessica, the mayor had time to work on getting a FB page together so residence can get informed. Really??? We are without power unable to retrieve information on a FB page from the mayor. However, this does tell me that the mayor had time to listen or read this email from a concerned citizen of this town.
CkM November 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Mikey My emails to our wonderful mayor were much shorter but conveyed the same message..My emails were not answered either. Our mayor has failed us and needs to be held accountable.
Adam Guy November 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Very sad to here this. I am truly sorry for the residents here in this beautiful place. Please let me know if I can help with ANY hazard trees in this area. I have moved my crew and Equiptment here across country from Seattle WA to help. I have been through 2 major hurricanes growing up on Kauai. 425-830-8820
Rob Bond November 12, 2012 at 01:18 PM
While I agree with much of the sentiment expressed in Phil's letter, I find it odd that Patch has chosen to title this article "Chatham Police Chief Says Email to Hopatcong". Was this e-mail written in Phil's professional capacity as a law enforcement officer and employee of Chatham township? No, I did not think so. If I was Phil's employer I am not sure I'd be pleased with this headline. To be clear, I am not criticizing Phil, but rather Patch for how they have chosen to spin this e-mail. Back to the topic of communications from the municipal government; what happened to the reverse 911 phone calls after the storm? We received several of these calls immediately before the storm but known after. Aside from the near daily updates from the Borough Schools (nice work), we received no broadcast phone calls from the municipality after the storm. Also the Hopatcong Borough Facebook page was a disappointment (and that is being generous). Why was the Borough website not better utilized for communications? Thanks to the Hopatcong Police Department for their Facebook and its regular updates.
Fed Up Resident November 12, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Michele, unfortunately the Towm meetings are held in a tiny space & I feel that's because they DON'T want too many of us residents to attend . You're getting 5 minutes then laughed off because that's all they allow. I've been to a meeting & maybe it was you that called out the BS before myself & another could. They need to hace mtgs held in a large area such as a school's gymnasium or someplace large like that, they also need to allow more than 5 minutes. Maybe it should be 5 minutes per person. There was definitely a huge lack of communication. I do hope that if Chief Crosson is able to run for Mayor, I would certainly vote for him, as would my husband & several others I know. As a Chief of Police he may not have the time. I do hope he will seriously consider running.
Maryann Edwards November 12, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Why did the police dept., the mayor and JCP&L think that we all could see their facebook pages when we had no power? I for one could not and I found it very frustrating.
AndyD November 12, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Thank you Phil for expressing what many of us have been feeling. I agree with the poster above that the next Council meeting needs to be at a large facility. To my mind, our town government both those elected and those employed largely failed the populace at large. Communication was/is the greatest failure but it was not the only one. What needs to happen is a post-sleep calm, reasoned review of what happened (the good the bad and the ugly) and a re-write of the disaster plan(s) to FIX it for next time. What form the next time will take, none of us know, but each of us and the Borough need to be much better prepared.
Michele Guttenberger November 12, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I Love Hopatcong - Yes the free spending Democrats that want social services for their community for the old and disabled. Like a County run nursing home that has a back up generator so that 99 year olds don't have to sleep on a Red Cross cots in the HHS makeshift shelter or a place the severely disabled could have their caregivers feed them with special kitchen equipment they needed to prepare their food. I've seen a mother break down and cry because she could not find a spoon to feed her disabled son at the HHS shelter. Sussex County Republican Freeholders should be so proud they cut the fat of our county tax budget by putting up the county run nursing home up for private auction. After all, we don't need to waste are tax money on these frivolous liberal social services. When we get old and crippled in Sussex County we should move to a blue part of the State where they have these kind of liberal spending things and leave us right wing conservatives free to live and die without these wasteful social services. Sure glad the incumbents got voted back in and making sure we keep Hopatcong like those role model towns you find in the state of Mississippi.
Gerald Barrett November 12, 2012 at 03:04 PM
The only place I saw the Mayor was at the HS. I guest the council was out running with the JCP&L people that no one could fine.
Jessica November 12, 2012 at 03:31 PM
@mir do you really think that she is updating that FB page herself? You seriously do not think that someone else is doing that for her? They might be her updates but I have a strong suspicion that someone else is doing the work. And don't be nasty to me, I went without power just as long as everyone else. I flushed my toilet with a bucket of water. So don't act like I don't know.
S. Coventry November 12, 2012 at 04:41 PM
@ I love Hopatcong as one who has received nasty e-mails from John P. let me say that your comments are remarkably similar to his. Try looking at the facts instead of attacking the people who are pointing them out, and trying to address the problems. I attended municipal meetings where Mara questioned spending and was met with animosity by the mayor and council. Your wrong about her, and you shouldn't be attacking the Chatham police chief when we should be looking at fixing the problems instead of gathering votes. Good for you Michele!!!
I love Hopatcong November 12, 2012 at 04:43 PM
We should all thank Michele and Mara for their tireless efforts to help others in this time of crises. Their volunteerism should be admired, helping the homeless, feeding those that lost their food, finding gas and generators, working to coordinate relief efforts and making sure that those that needed special assistance were assisted. Oh, I am sorry, that wasn't Michele and Mara, that was Sylvia Petillo.
I love Hopatcong November 12, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Michele - Are you so angry that you cannot overcome your dark side to pitch in and help? This was the worst storm to ever hit NJ. Red Cross even defined it as worse than Katrina. But Michele would rather pursue her partisan bickering. You could not find a spoon for that disabled boy? You are a sad example of what happens when anger overcomes humanity. Please seek counseling.

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