Officials mum on Newark Fire Department investigation

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on July 21, 2015

Union County officials on Friday raided the offices of Newark Fire Director James Stewart as part of an investigation into the department's Environmental Dumping Task Force.

 

NEWARK — City officials are declining to comment on what multiple sources have said is an ongoing investigation of the Newark Fire Department.

Detectives with the Union County Prosecutor's Office Corruption Unit raided the offices of Fire Director James Stewart on the morning of July 17, several sources confirmed to NJ Advance Media.

Calls to Stewart's office for comment on the raid went unreturned Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Mayor Ras Baraka's office declined comment, deferring inquiries to the offices of city's corporation counsel Willie Parker. Parker did not immediately returns calls for comment.

Sources confirmed to NJ Advance Media that members of the unit left with computers and other files of documents from offices belonging to both Stewart and a secretary, which the sources said were related to an investigation into the department's Environmental Dumping Task Force and one of its members, Capt. Anthony Graves.

"The Union County Prosecutor's Office does not comment on active investigations of this nature," Mark Spivey, spokesman for the office, said Tuesday.

In February, the state filed a lawsuit in Essex County Superior Courts against the city, Stewart, the fire department, Director of Neighborhood and Recreational Services Patrick Council and Assistant Corporation Counsel Avion Benjamin, alleging they had failed to comply with subpoenas from the Essex County Prosecutor's Office ordering them to hand over various documents related to Graves and the unit.

According to the documents, the parties were ordered to hand over records acknowledging the creation of the task force, along with the schedules, incident reports and overtime records of Newark Fire Department Captain Anthony Graves and all other personnel assigned to it.

The investigation was initiated by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, and has been active since at least January, according to the filing.

Sources said Union County took over the investigation because of a previous relationship Graves had with an investigator with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

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