Mayor encourages police rapper at annual Mayor’s Ball

IRVINGTON, NJ — Although Maurice Gattison is now a sergeant in the Irvington Police Division and president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 29 union, he was once signed to a major hip-hop record label as rapper “Gat the Great.”

It was Gattison’s rapping skills that were put on display by Mayor Tony Vauss when he organized his third annual Mayor’s Ball at Nanina’s restaurant in Belleville on Thursday, Oct. 13.

“We closed out the program with Gat the Great rapping in a video about the township and the administration,” said Vauss on Tuesday, Oct. 17. “It was a great way to cap off a great night with Gat the Great.”

The video features Gattison rapping over an upbeat track about the Vauss administration’s progress in improving Irvington since the mayor took office in 2014 and his dedication to making the town “Clean and Safe,” as he promised to do on the campaign trail in 2014.

“I’m being criticized already about it, but I don’t care,” said Gattison on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Gattison recently took lyrical aim at some of his fellow police officers who had been griping about his leadership of their union, even going so far as to pen an anonymous letter criticizing him and distributing it to everyone in the police division in the days leading up to the last union election.The anonymous letter, titled, “An important letter of concern to all PBA members,” was emailed to the Irvington Herald on Tuesday, May 30.

“Our intention is not to bash the current president. Our intentions are to inform our fellow brothers and sisters with important inform as to the future of our PBA and some truths that all members need to be made aware of,” reads the anonymous letter dated Tuesday, May 30. “So to put it bluntly, the president of our PBA has no loyalty, respect, appreciation or obligation to our union and all its members anymore. But gives those things to everyone outside of us when serving in this manner the position is subjected to corruption and used for personal gains. Instead of representing and protecting all members and the integrity of our union and everything else our union stands for.”

The letter accused Gattison of being concerned only with “building friendships, not PBA business relationships but personal friendships.”

This year Vauss instituted a salary deferment plan in order to close the $3.25 million hole in the Calendar Year 2015 Municipal Budget, giving all municipal employee unions the option to accept the furloughs and layoffs or not. However, since the police and fire divisions are the largest uniformed bargaining units, their acquiescence to the plan was essential.

The majority of the Police Division’s PBA Local 29 members voted in favor of the furlough and layoff plan, as did most of the other public employee unions. The Fire Division’s Superior Officers Association union agreed to the plan, but the majority of the members of the FMBA Local 14 union voted against the plan, although this was not enough to stop it.

The furloughs and layoffs then morphed into salary deferments, meaning police and fire personnel would only sacrifice two paychecks to fill the budget gap, going from 26 paychecks to 24 in one year. According to Vauss and Municipal Council President David Lyons, the deferments were instituted in order to further mitigate the necessity of taking money from the public employees to fill the $3.25 million budget gap.

But the PBA Local 29 union vote on the furloughs and layoffs wasn’t unanimous and many in town believe the anonymous letter decrying Gattison’s leadership was written by the faction that came up short in the voting.

“As president, I could have just made the decision. I’ve never done that, in my seven years as PBA president. Everything that happens, I let them vote on,” said Gattison on Tuesday, Aug. 29. “I could have just went over there and made the decision. The other unions came to me. At no time, and the mayor himself can tell you, I didn’t just say ‘yes.’ When it comes to furloughs, I’ve been through previous furloughs and layoffs, where we didn’t have any choice about it, so I made sure that this time we were going have a vote, so that we could choose what we wanted to do, and we did.”

Gattison speculated that his Irvington Police Division detractors penned the anonymous letter and circulated it throughout the department in late May. In response, he wrote “The Talk,” a hip-hop video he posted on YouTube.

“They wrote it three or four days before the election and the election came and I won unopposed,” Gattison said. “I didn’t survive around here being stupid. I read. They don’t read. I’m a straight shooter. I don’t sneak diss. When I want to diss somebody, I say your name. I don’t have to subliminally go at anybody. I know how to play with words, to make people think they hear things that aren’t even there.”

And for those who believe the handful of papers that Gattison can be seen holding in “The Talk” was a copy of the anonymous letter about him, he had another very simple answer for them.

“I know when people are looking for something, so they can come get it,” said Gattison on Tuesday, Aug. 29. “I was holding a script in my hand in the video. I wasn’t holding a copy of the letter. I’m still the president, so why would I care about the letter? ”