Skip to content

A town square for an unsquare town

redbankgreen

Standing for the vitality of Red Bank, its community, and the fun we have together.

RED BANK: McCONNELL REBUTS ALLEGATIONS

red bank darren mcconnellChief Darren McConnell at the police station in 2020. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topicRed Bank police Chief Darren McConnell acknowledged Saturday that he’d had a relationship with a former “significant other” of a department employee “years ago,” but none since.

The admission came two days after the police union accused McConnell of engaging in “numerous inappropriate and questionable sexual relationships with the significant others'” of department personnel, as well as alleged ethical lapses that led to “no confidence” vote by local members last month.

Patrolwoman Kristin Altimari receiving a commendation for heroism from Mayor Pasquale Menna in 2014. Below, Patrolman Mike Zadlock in 2017. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Responding to allegations leveled at Thursday’s council meeting by Police Benevolent Local 39 President Mike Zadlock, McConnell sent local media a prepared statement calling the allegations “more about personal issues than professional ones.”

“I had one, one, relationship that would fall into this category and it occurred years ago and became a long-term and publicly known relationship, not a hidden secret,” McConnell wrote.

The woman he dated, whom he did not identify, “had previously been in a relationship” with a department member and did not herself work for the department or the borough, McConnell said.

They stopped dating during the COVID-19 pandemic, McConnell told redbankgreen in a telephone interview Saturday, and “nobody ever said a word about it. It’s only apparently a problem today, even though it’s been over for two or three years.”

Regarding his relationship with Patrolwoman Kristin Altimari, whom he married last month, “while those who want to damage my reputation and that of my wife would categorize that as a scandal, it is not,” McConnell wrote.

“Kristin and I had a brief relationship approximately eight or nine years ago but then moved on with our lives,” McConnell’s statement said. “Kristin subsequently became involved in a new relationship with another member of the PBA, which lasted until 2020.  In the latter part of 2021, Kristin and I got back together, a year after her other relationship had ended. We became engaged about a year later and were married in July of this year. That is not a scandal, it is a relationship and part of life.”

Such relationships are common in police work, he wrote, and not prohibited by borough policy, which “simply requires that they be made known through proper channels and be addressed appropriately. I satisfied that requirement upon engaging in our relationship.”

McConnell told redbankgreen that he has “never had any relationship with anyone who works for the borough” other than Altimari.

Altimari, who was hired by the department in 2014, has not responded to requests for comment.

On Friday, Zadlock told redbankgreen the union has no plans to address the matter again in public “at this time,” and on Saturday declined to comment on McConnell’s statement.

Mayor Billy Portman declined comment Saturday afternoon, telling redbankgreen, “this is an internal police matter and I will await the results of the investigation,” which he later confirmed was a reference to a New Jersey Attorney General’s probe. Borough Attorney Greg Cannon has advised Portman and council members not to discuss the matter because it involves personnel.

McConnell, 54, has been chief for a decade, and has additionally served as “interim” borough administrator for two years. He had been expected to retire as chief July 31, and with that, to give up his borough administrator position to comply with New Jersey public employee pension rules.

But he has remained in both posts – as chief, he said last month, because of unresolved pension issues, and as administrator because the council has not yet appointed a permanent successor as “manager” under the new council-manager form of government that took effect July 1.

After Thursday’s council meeting, McConnell acknowledged to redbankgreen that his retirement had additionally been held up by a pending complaint filed by the union with New Jersey Attorney General’s office. Neither Zadlock nor McConnell, however, would say what the complaint alleged, or where it stands procedurally.

Late Friday, a spokesman for the Attorney General told redbankgreen that the agency “does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations, and no further information is available at this time.”

Zadlock additionally told the council on Thursday that the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office had looked into McConnell’s handling of “internal affairs complaints regarding his current wife and subordinate,” which Zadlock said “resulted in the prosecutor’s office coming out with their directive, February 24th, 2023. That directive has not been distributed to our department but has been public to other agencies.”

But the details of that matter also have not been disclosed. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told redbankgreen on Friday that he expected the agency to respond to questions in the coming week.

Zadlock’s appearance before the council came a month after what he called an “overwhelming number of members” endorsed a previously undisclosed no-confidence measure against McConnell.

McConnell, Zadlock said, “has destroyed the morale of this once-proud and distinguished agency,” through personal relationships, favoritism, nepotism and “selective enforcement of department and borough policies.”

He called on the council to place McConnell on administrative leave “immediately and until further notice.”

Citing McConnell’s expression of interest, as reported by redbankgreen, in possibly returning to borough hall as municipal manager, Zadlock told the council that the PBA “is adamantly opposed to any such appointment.

“Giving McConnell the entire executive power vested in that position – to appoint hire or promote whomever he chooses – causes a major conflict of interest,” he said.

That, McConnell said in his written response, “appears to me to be an attempt to dictate who the town does or does not hire as the new manager, clearly overstepping the role of a labor union.”

The timing of the union’s allegations, “is exactly what they said,” McConnell told redbankgreen: to prevent him from becoming town manager, a job he said he has not even decided he wants to pursue.

“I think they’re just trying to throw shade on me to hurt the chances of my ever doing that,” he said.

Here’s the full McConnell statement:

At this juncture I find it necessary to provide information to the public to clarify some issues and set the record straight rather than allow the recent statement by the PBA and subsequent rumors circulated by members of the community to go unanswered. While I cannot and will not discuss any ongoing investigation or any personnel matters, this clearly has become more about personal issues than professional ones.

Most notably I would like to address the allegation that I have had numerous relationships, plural, with the significant others of members of the PBA. I had one, one, relationship that would fall into this category and it occurred years ago and became a long-term and publicly known relationship, not a hidden secret. To say that I never regretted that decision and never showed remorse is completely untrue, though the PBA as a whole would not know that as they were not a party to that situation in any way. That relationship was something that hurt someone who I had been friends with and I fully accept responsibility for that, and have for years.

Regarding my current relationship and marriage, while those who want to damage my reputation and that of my wife would categorize that as a scandal, it is not. Kristin and I had a brief relationship approximately eight or nine years ago but then moved on with our lives. Kristin subsequently became involved in a new relationship with another member of the PBA, which lasted until 2020. In the latter part of 2021, Kristin and I got back together, a year after her other relationship had ended. We became engaged about a year later and were married in July of this year. That is not a scandal, it is a relationship and part of life.

While some may believe that engaging in a relationship with someone at work is improper, it is common in all walks of life and is extremely common in law enforcement as it is a unique career with people who share common interests and experiences. While some agencies prohibit such relationships, our department and our Borough does not. In fact, the borough policy implicitly understands that these relationships happen and simply requires that they be made known through proper channels and be addressed appropriately. I satisfied that requirement upon engaging in our relationship.

Again, I would like to stress that despite the picture being painted that I have engaged in numerous inappropriate relationships, that is not the truth. My current marriage is not a regrettable decision, but is two people who have built a healthy, loving relationship and are living a normal life just like anyone else has the right to do. Any assertion beyond that is simply a false and defamatory narrative.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the timing of this action by the PBA is suspect considering that Kristin and I have been very clearly together for approximately two years, and this was undertaken and publicized only as I am about to retire. In fact, in their statement they indicated that their concern was that I could potentially apply to return as the new manager, which appears to me to be an attempt to dictate who the town does or does not hire as the new manager, clearly overstepping the role of a labor union.

If you value the news coverage provided by redbankgreen, please become a financial supporter. Click here to set your own level of monthly or annual contribution.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
Partyline
FAWNING OVER HER BABY
A mother deer and her fawn were spotted between a row of garages on Hudson Avenue and some trees alongside the Broad Street parking lots. Re ...
EVENING ESCAPE
RED BANK: Sailors in Monmouth Boat Club's weekly racing series found tranquil conditions on the Navesink River Tuesday evening.
PEAK COLOR ON BROAD
RED BANK: A year after they were installed, downtown mini gardens have added to "transformational" improvements, says business owner.
RED BANK: FAIRIES MOVE IN ON WHITE STREET
Red Bank: Girl scouts turns tiny parking lot plot of dirt into a "magical girls sparkle garden."
TRAINING UNDER FIRE
RED BANK: Volunteer firefighters train to cut into pitched roofs under active fire conditions.
“SUPERMOM” WANTS YOUR VOTE
Business owner. Dyed in the wool, lifelong Red Banker. Mother of six. Yup, seems like Anita Pierce does it all. In other words, she’s ...
SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
RED BANK: Town prepares for Saturday's Pride in the Park celebration with another lawn art design by public works supervisor and Fire Chief ...
MOVIES VIA LIBRARY
RED BANK: Public Library now offers members access to streaming movies via Kanopy, with some 30,000 titles and tons of content for kids.
NEW RAINBOW CROSSWALK ON BROWN PLACE
Kicking off pride month, some Brown Place and Spring Street residents, ages 5 to 11, constructed a rainbow crosswalk with chalk over the wee ...
WHAT TO WEAR?
RED BANK: Dressmakers' mannequins appeared to mull what to wear as they looked down on Monmouth Street last week.
SYMPHONY RETURNS JUNE 29
RED BANK: An annual crowd pleaser returns June 29 with a free concert in Marine Park by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, RiverCenter said ...
Heard on the Green
Heard on the Green
DUCK RESCUE EFFORT
Duckling rescue attempt underway in sewer at East Front and Broad, 10:29 a.m.
HOUSING CRUNCH
Demolition begins for new apartments at Globe Court and Mechanic Street.
FEELING SNAPPY
      Snapping Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs this time of year and are a common site along the Swimming River waterfr ...
TUB TIME
RED BANK: A sparrow waits for the next available dirt tub while two others take their Sunday baths. (Click for video.)
CHECK IT OUT
A bench outside the Red Bank Public Library provided a serene view of our beautiful Navesink River Monday evening.
WAYWARD SLIM JIM
Anybody lose a Slim Jim? A “Sweet Mild O’ Mine” flavor Slim Jim was seen left unattended on this mailbox on Mechanic Stree ...
YAPPY TOGETHER
RED BANK: Look for this cutie pie, named Sacramento, at Yappy Hour on Broadwalk Saturday. He's looking for a new home.
YELLOW RAINCOAT DAY
On a rainy May morning, the only golden sight on Broad Street this morning were the matching raincoats of Eileen and her dog Benny.