By DUSTIN RACIOPPI[EDITOR’S NOTE: See update below]
Former Fair Haven Fire Chief Shaun Foley had an accident in his fire department vehicle 20 months before a second wreck prompted charges that led to his resignation last week, police records confirm.
A report on the March 16, 2008, accident, which occurred on Ridge Road near Kemp Avenue in Fair Haven, says no test for alcohol was given to Foley.
Foley faces a charge of drunken driving in the more recent incident, which occurred November 22 in Rumson. In that case, police allege that Foley crashed his fire chief’s vehicle into a telephone pole on East River Road shortly before 6p, fled the scene on foot and, after being located a mile away on the Oceanic Bridge, and jumped about 30 feet into the Navesink River, prompting a massive rescue effort. He was uninjured.
In the earlier accident, Foley also smacked a utility pole, according to records obtained by redbankgreen.
The police report, completed by Patrolman Jeffrey Jarvis, says Foley told police he was eastbound on Ridge Road at about 3p that Sunday when “he swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle, striking a utility pole.”
Jarvis said he “observed some scrapes on Shaun’s face,” but that Foley declined medical attention.
In a handwritten statement given to police three days later, Foley said wet road conditions caused him to skid into the pole after he swerved to avoid a blue Jeep Wrangler that had pulled into his path. Foley also wrote that it was he who called the police to report the accident.
Foley was deputy fire chief at the time. He became chief on January 1, 2009.[UPDATE: Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge, who was not previously available for comment, tells redbankgreen that he relies on the judgment and integrity of his officers to determine if and when to call for alcohol or drug tests of motorists.
The only way to determine if preferential treatment has been given is “if you had a third-party witness who said the driver was staggering, or some evidence” indicating a driver should have been tested, he said. “Otherwise, you have to go on the officer’s experience and word.”]
Though the volunteer fire department purchases its vehicles, they are insured under coverage obtained by the borough, according to Councilman Chris Rinn. But he said the Fair Haven borough council at this point does not have a role in the Foley matter.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk and speculation, but let’s let this play out in the legal system,” he told redbankgreen. “This is a (Rumson) police matter.”
Foley resigned as chief of the volunteer department last week. He also quit his job with the Rumson Police Department, where he worked as a dispatcher and part-time police officer.
Foley’s attorney, Mitchell Ansell, tells redbankgreen that the DWI case will be moved from Rumson municipal court to avoid conflicts of interest, though no replacement venue has yet been chosen by court officials and no date for a trial has been set.
An initial appearance by Foley to answer the charges in Rumson on December 9 has been waived, as is customary when a defendant retains an attorney, Ansell said.
Ansell said that no Breathalyzer test was given to Foley, but he did not yet know if authorities had obtained a blood sample from his client.
Ansell declined to discuss Foley’s actions on November 22 or his present circumstances.
Rinn said the Foley matter “is an isolated incident not representative of the fire department or our emergency services, which have a longstanding reputation for excellence.”
Here’s the full report (click to enlarge):