After pressure and condemnation from Democratic New Jersey officials statewide in the wake of the radio airing of a “ranting, racist” recording, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino resigned his post along with four of his deputies, Executive Undersheriff George Buono, Undersheriff Robert Colaneri, Undersheriff Brian Smith and Undersheriff Joseph Hornyak.
Before he resigned, Saudino asked for forgiveness and apologized for his remarks, which were widely characterized as inappropriate and xenophobic. He described Gov. Phil Murphy’s comments proposing the legalization of marijuana as “in other words, let the blacks come in,” and described Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as having been appointed to his post only because he is of the Sikh faith. Saudino, who worked closely with Grewal in his previous post as Bergen County prosecutor, is heard on the recording saying Grewal only got appointed to his current position “because of the turban.” A new sheriff will be named in a special election on November 6.
“These remarks are not representative of the person that I am and they are in no way consistent with the manner in which I have conducted my life personally and as a law enforcement professional with over 46 years of service to the residents of Bergen County,” Saudino said.
Until the special election, Sheriff’s Office Chief Kevin Pell will be the officer-in-charge of the sheriff’s department’s operations and Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Warden Steve Ahrendt will be the officer-in-charge of the Bergen County jail’s operations.
Governor Phil Murphy was among the first to call for Saudino’s resignation, considering the recording was made in the wake of his own inauguration in Trenton. “With the resignation of Sheriff Saudino, we can now begin the process of restoring faith in the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office after so much of it was so quickly eroded. And, we can begin the process of ensuring that the bigoted beliefs displayed by the former sheriff are not given shelter in any corner of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office—now or in the future.”
New Jersey Sen. Gerry Cardinale also spoke out against the Saudino comments. “It’s disheartening that someone in such an important position within our county can have such a low view of so many of the people he serves. You can dislike policies that you think are bad, but you can’t dislike entire communities. Further, Sheriff Saudino’s suggestion that Attorney General Grewal was appointed by the governor solely for the sake of appearance is beyond the pale.
“As a legislator who has long represented Bergen County, and as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which reviewed and confirmed the attorney general’s nomination, I can state without hesitation that New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer is eminently qualified and deserving of his position,” said Cardinale.
“When I heard Sheriff Saudino’s comments, I felt sick inside. This is not the Michael Saudino I thought I knew. Bigotry in any form is a plague on our society, and especially unacceptable for anyone involved in enforcing our laws,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). “Like many others, I was surprised and saddened by Sheriff Saudino’s unacceptable comments,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).
Anthony Cureton, the current director of inmate social services and education at the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, who served 25 years as an officer and detective with the Englewood Police Department and head of the Bergen County NAACP, will be the Democratic candidate for Sheriff. John “Jack” DeLorenzo, the current mayor of Hasbrouck Heights, will be the Republican candidate for sheriff. He is an Army veteran and 25-year member of the Hasbrouck Heights Police Department, retiring as a detective captain. He also served three terms on the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education.
By Elizabeth Kratz