IRVINGTON, NJ — John Brown was present at the seventh annual Cancer Walk on Sunday, Oct. 8, in his capacity as the township’s new deputy director for the Irvington Public Safety Department.
“It feels great to be back and serving the community that I still live in,” said Brown on Sunday, Oct. 8. “It’s always a great thing and this is a great event walking around and bringing awareness to cancer. Let’s beat cancer.”
Mayor Tony Vauss agreed it was good to have Brown back on the job, but things were not always so rosy for Brown.
In 2014, Vauss appointed Brown, a former Newark Fire Department firefighter and Irvington Municipal Council candidate to serve as the township’s first-ever black fire director. But things were in the works to make that position a temporary one.
In October 2015, the council unanimously voted to approve Ordinance MC 3553, which created the new Irvington Public Safety Department, with corresponding director and deputy director posts. In November 2015, Vauss confirmed he had appointed police Director Tracey Bowers as the acting director of the new department, which was confirmed by the council.
The consolidation of the formerly separate and autonomous police and fire departments into one new department with a police and fire division and a civilian director appointed by the mayor effectively eliminated the jobs and titles of police chief, fire chief, police director and fire director.
However, police Chief Michael Chase was still technically on the job at the time; Brown had already been appointed fire director, and Antonio Gary was the fire chief. Chase was subsequently fired, although the township said that was not the case, even though his job title and position were eliminated; his lawsuit alleging wrongful termination is still pending.
That left Brown and Gary in two jobs that technically no longer existed. But last year, Brown retired from the Newark Fire Department and resigned from the fire director’s job.
According to state law, any policeman or firefighter who retires must wait at least six months before being hired to work in the local government of the municipalities from which they’ve retired.
Bowers retired from the Irvington Police Department in 2015, at which time he said he did now know if he’d ever work in Irvington again. But roughly six months later, he returned to the Vauss administration as director of the Irvington Public Safety Department.
Brown said essentially the same thing Bowers did at the annual State of the Township Address on Thursday, Jan. 26, but he has now returned to the fold as well. Brown’s return means Vauss no longer has to fill in for him as fire director, which he has been doing since October 2016, when Brown resigned from the administration after retiring from the Newark Fire Department.