Hoboken Fire Chief Brian Crimmins was placed on administrative leave yesterday, with Battalion Chief Anton Peskens named acting chief, on the same day that Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante announced his retirement.
By John Heinis/hudson County View
“Please be advised that beginning today, Fire Chief Crimmins will be out on Administrative Leave. In his absence, Battalion Chief [Anton] Peskens will be in charge of the department. For any fire department related questions, please reach out to Battalion Chief Peskens and me,” Business Administrator Jason Freeman wrote in a memo yesterday.
Crimmins declined to comment while other members of the department deferred comment to city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri, who said the city does not comment on personnel matters.
Sources with knowledge of the situation, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, called the matter “unprecedented” and said they would be shocked if it didn’t result in litigation, but no one divulged any details beyond calling the situation “internal strife between Crimmins and other ranking members of the department.”
Back in September, Hoboken Fire Captain Joe Grossi filed a tort claim alleging political retaliation, specifically that he was passed up for a promotion for campaigning for 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco during the 2017 mayor’s race.
“During the meeting, the fire chief recommended Claimant for the position. [Business Administrator Jason] Freeman responded by stating to Claimant, in front of all in attendance, ‘We know where you were on Election Day,” the claim alleges.
In a Twitter thread that began by thanking Ferrante for his nearly three decades of service, DeFusco called the decision “sudden and unexpected” and brought to light that Crimmins had been placed on leave.
“I truly hope politics isn’t at play here and the Mayor intends to keep these positions occupied by civil service employees who are uniquely qualified to lead our emergency service departments,” he wrote.
“The last thing we need is for the Mayor to appoint someone who serves at his pleasure in an effort to advance his own political career at the detriment of public safety in Hoboken.”
Back in July, the administration proposed giving Ferrante a three-year contract that ran through 2022, though the city council briefly considered a two-year agreement that would’ve ended in 2021, which led to a four-choice ultimatum from the chief.
However, cooler heads prevailed when it was all said and done, with the council unanimously (9-0) approving a three-year deal.
In addition to Ferrante’s retirement announcement and Crimmins being placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, the Hoboken Police Superior Officers Association endorsed Mayor Ravi Bhalla for re-election.
The situation has many insiders wondering if the city would bring back their public safety director position, a post that hasn’t been filled since Jon Tooke retired on November 30th, 2015.
“Any future decision on personnel will be made at the appropriate time with full transparency to the public,” Chaudhuri said when asked if the city planned on utilizing the public safety director position again.
Such a move would likely be a bit tricky in the Mile Square City, given that it would require approval from the city council.