Report lays out complaints and case against Irvington councilman

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Herald newspaper has obtained a copy of the report, “Investigation into acts and/or omissions of East Ward Council member Paul Inman,” which the Irvington Municipal Council hired the law firm of DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick, Cole & Giblin to conduct, in response to allegations that Inman may have violated state ethics and criminal law.

Inman allegedly engaged in telephone conversations with former township employee Tamara Smith related to her accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Mayor Tony Vauss, calls Smith secretly taped without Inman’s knowledge.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, the council voted 6-1 to authorize hiring the law firm to conduct an investigation into Inman’s alleged “acts and/or omissions,” with only Inman voting against the measure.

On Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, the same council majority voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution to refer the investigative report to the appropriate state and county authorities — the state Attorney General’s Office, the state Ethics Commission, and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office — and “demanding Councilman Paul Inman recuse himself from all discussions regarding the Smith v. Township of Irvington matter.”

According to the resolution, the law firm found that “Councilman Inman had an ethical obligation under the New Jersey Ethics Act to disclose his involvement with Tamara Smith in this matter,” but “did not disclose his involvement, when asked by the township attorney to recuse himself from any executive session and other discussions relating to this litigation.”

The matter of Tamara Smith v. Township of Irvington and Anthony Vauss was decided by a jury in favor of Vauss on Tuesday, Aug. 8, in Newark Superior Court.

The law firm’s investigative report was contained in a memorandum dated Thursday, Dec. 21, from the firm to township attorney Ramon Rivera. According to this memorandum, in a “letter dated July 28, 2015, Paul Castronovo, counsel for Mrs. Smith, sent a letter of representation to Mr. Inman, reciting specific examples of the alleged harassment under the guise of seeking an amicable resolution of the matter and preservation of evidence. Moreover, there were mostly undated recorded conversations between Mrs. Smith and Mr. Inman produced during discovery discussing the allegations of sexual harassment and Mrs. Smith’s proposed course of action.”

According to the law firm, the scope of the investigation included but was not limited to interviews, documents and legal analysis of selected documents and legal research was performed, in order to fully assess the acts in relation to the local and state laws. According to the memorandum from the firm to Rivera, Inman agreed to be interviewed Nov. 6, 2017, but then cancelled the interview a few days beforehand.

The lawyers’ report states the firm’s investigation into Inman’s alleged acts and/or omissions found credible evidence to support their findings that: the recorded transcripts show evidence of collusion with T. Smith; the recorded transcripts evidence personal animosity by Inman toward Vauss; the township’s defense and indemnification ordinances contain provisions, which outline defense and indemnification for acts in the performance of official duties that Inman is not covered by; the Local Government Ethics Laws set forth an ethics standard for all public officials that Inman violated; and state law sets forth the standard for the commission of an act of office misconduct.

According to the Dec. 21 memorandum, “The transcript provides a few instances of Mr. Inman making suggestions to Mrs. Smith regarding her harassment claim. Those instances were related to specific acts, the retain letter and he appeared to have affirmative (sic) talked with employees to support her claim.”

According to the lawyers’ report, “In the transcripts, there are ongoing discussions between Mr. Inman and Mrs. Smith regarding the harassment allegations, potential witnesses and the seemingly newsworthiness of the lawsuit.” This is how the ethics complaints and possible violations of local and state ethics and conflict of interest laws come into play.

According to the report and township officials, Inman face fines of $100 to $500 for each ethics violation; possible removal, suspension, demotion “or other disciplinary action” and from five to 10 years of jail time for official misconduct, depending on whether the alleged violations are deemed second- or third-degree crimes.

“The nature of the claim of official misconduct or wrongdoing may require extensive independent analysis by law enforcement or regulatory authorities” reads the memorandum to Rivera. “Based upon the review of the documents provided, the facts are suggestive that Inman was seeking a political and personal benefit relating to his position as a councilman. However, the claim is totally dependent on his intent, which, at this time, cannot be determined with the facts developed thus far.”

After three years of litigation, Vauss was cleared in the sexual harassment and abuse case Smith brought against him. Smith was ordered to pay $7,000 for defamation. She was represented by attorneys Paul Castronovo and Thomas McKinney and is suing the township for not doing anything about the alleged abuse, which she claimed to have reported.

Angelo Genova represented the township in the Smith case, while Vauss was represented by attorney Christopher Kinum. Evidence central to both sides in the case consisted of recordings Smith had secretly made of private conversations with Inman, Bradley, the now deceased Rev. Ron Christian and Mayor Wayne Smith, among others. Kinum urged the jury to consider that Smith secretly recorded conversations with an intent to use them in a blackmail scheme.

Inman appears to have questions to answer, based on the council’s resolution to refer the lawyers’ investigative report to state authorities. According to the resolution, Inman “denied any involvement in the litigation and continued to participate in executive session and other discussions related to that matter” and “may have violated certain criminal laws, as well as ethics laws.”

The Irvington Municipal Council is now demanding that Inman recuse himself from any future executive session or any other discussions concerning the matter of Smith v. the township, and to disclose to the council all discussions he conducted with Smith.

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