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Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

EDITORIAL : When CLIFFVIEW PILOT first got wind of possible misconduct by police brass in North Bergen, township spokesman Philip Swibinski labeled the events “totally untrue” and the original story “potentially libelous.” But witnesses, radio transmissions and police officers themselves have told a different story the past several days.

Philip Swibinski

“This is not responsible journalism,” Swibinski wrote to me. “[R]ight now, all you’re doing is reporting on baseless rumors and accusations….I don’t know who your source is, but clearly it’s someone with an axe to grind, because the information he or she gave you is absolutely wrong.”

Jerry DeMarco Publisher/Editor

Is it? According to witnesses, police, radio transmissions and other sources with direct knowledge of the incident:

*As originally reported on CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM last week, an apparently intoxicated North Bergen High School Vice-Principal Edward Somick was ordered taken into custody and placed into a police cruiser, in handcuffs, after an argument outside his house with a neighbor around midnight May 14.

*During the argument — over a parking space — Somick called the 18-year-old Hispanic resident a four-letter racial epithet.

*Somick also confronted police officers at the scene, spewing expletives at at least one of them.

*Surveillance video at headquarters showed Somick being placed in a holding cell where prisoners and detainees are kept.

*Around 1 a.m., North Bergen Police Chief William “Jake” Galvin arrived at headquarters and ordered Somick’s release. “Don’t you know who he is?” the chief reportedly asked one of his sergeants, a source with direct knowledge of the incident told me.

*Somick, whose mother is dating Mayor Nicholas Sacco, has several relatives who also work for the North Bergen Board of Education, including his mother, records show.

*He was driven home by Capt. Robert Dowd, Galvin’s right-hand man, who reportedly is being groomed to be his successor. Both Galvin and Dowd are staunch supporters of the mayor.

Neither a phone call nor an email to Sacco on Tuesday morning, requesting his take on the incident, has been returned as of 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Swibinski has also cut off communication.

Last week, he was quick to insist that the original story be taken down.

“Your story is totally untrue,” Swibinski wrote in an email to me. “Edward Somick was never arrested and absolutely did not call anyone any racial slur. I don’t know who you got this from, but it is absolutely false and you should remove it immediatley[sic].”

Swibinski, a Secaucus-based public relations agent who got his bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing from The College of New Jersey in 2008, wrote:

“There was a disagreement between Somick and a neighbor over a parking issue, but no arrests were ever made and absolutely no charges have been filed against Edward Somick.

“I hope that you will immediately[sic] remove this false and potentially libelous story as soon as is possible.”

I published Swibinski’s comments in a subsequent CLIFFVIEW PILOT story that replaced the previous version.

“I see that you have amended[sic] the story, thank you for that,” Swibinski wrote, in a follow-up email. “At this point, I don’t see why this merits a story on your site at all. It was simply a disagreement between neighbors, the kind of thing that happens from time to time. Seriously, where is the news value here?”

I then requested a copy of the incident report. Swibinski, who bills himself on as an Account Executive at Vision Media Marketing Inc., said he would get on it.

Sacco (center), Galvin (left), Somick

The next day he wrote back:

“I thought the police report would be a public document, but I have been told by the department that because no arrest was made, it is not a public record and thus cannot be released to you.

“However, Chief Galvin and Captain Dowd have told me that they would be willing to let you look at a copy of the report in the Chief’s office tomorrow, so you can read it and this whole matter can be ended. You can call the office at [xxx-xxx-xxxx] and set up an appointment if you would like. Sorry for the mix-up.”

I refused, as a matter of policy.

Swibinski again was asked for information after I discovered that Fairview police were at the scene of the incident as backup and that a radio transmission specifically stated that Somick was arrested.

“Somick was not arrested,” he replied. “We have no further comment.”

At 11:20 a.m. Monday, May 24, I sent another email to Swibinski. It read, in part:

“I would appreciate a response from the chief regarding the entire Somick matter and how his Captain and others handled the situation.

“I am also officially requesting a complete copy of Case File # #10021610, under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.”

As of 10 p.m., Wednesday May 26, he had not responded.

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