NEW JERSEY (FOX5NY.COM) - Two days before the children of Palisades Park, New Jersey, go back to school, borough officials are in hot water after a news report revealed that the armed security guards hired at all three district schools were not properly vetted.
"There were no documents, there was no evidence of background checks or psychological evaluations, physicals, eye exams, anything that they outline should be there in their own policy," said Katie Sobko, a reporter for NorthJersey.com.
Sobko, Steve Janoski, and Kristie Cattafi, reporters at NorthJersey.com/USA Today Network New Jersey, broke the story. They say no resumes, no background checks or psychological evaluations were performed. Councilman Henry Ruh, a retired police officer, hired all nine guards before they even applied for the job, according to documents the reporters obtained. And two guards' handgun-carry permits have expired, according to the report.
"[Applications] were never advertised, and the applications were filled out after the hire dates," Sobko told Fox 5 News.
The district enrolls 1,500 students. The security guards that were hired are all retired police officers and at least two are relatives of town officials, NorthJersey.com reported.
"The councilman hired his brother, or voted to hire his brother," said Steve Janoski, a public safety reporter at NorthJersey.com. "Also the mayor's cousin is in there, too."
"I talked to the board of education president. He was shocked when we talked to him—that was his word: shocked," NorthJersey.com reporter Kristie Cattafi said, adding that he believed that Henry Ruh told the board that the guards were properly vetted.
The reporters had a hard time getting answers from both school and borough officials.
Fox 5 also made numerous attempts to contact school and town officials to get some answers to the report.
The only thing we were able to get was a statement from the superintendent of schools.
"This morning, I met with the Palisades Park Chief of Police to review the background checks of each hired officer," Superintendent Joseph Cirillo said. "I was reassured that each officer assigned to our schools has complied with NJ state law regarding background checks, and has met the qualifications for the possession of a firearm."
Fox 5 tried to contact Councilman Ruh but did not hear back. Fox 5 left numerous messages for Frank Donohue, who is both a councilman and the principal at the high school. We were told he had meetings all day.
I also left messages for Chief of Police Mark Jackson and I came to the police department but was told he had stepped away.