January 2019



No Marijuana Plant in Clayton (for Now)

GTI wins “nod” to operate in Paterson

On Monday, December 17th, the New Jersey Department of Health (“DOH”) announced the names of the six businesses selected to “apply for permits to open new medical marijuana dispensaries (and cultivation operations) in the state. Two applicants were chosen for the north, central and southern parts of the state.

Green Thumb Industries (“GTI New Jersey, LLC”) was one of them – but not in Clayton – they were selected for licensing consideration in Paterson – some 98 miles north of the Borough.

Among the companies selected by the state “in this round of licensing” were:

  • South: MPX New Jersey – Atlantic City (Dispensary), Galloway (Cultivation), and Columbia Care New Jersey – Vineland (Dispensary & Cultivation)
  • Central: Verano NJ LLC – Elizabeth (Dispensary), Rahway (Cultivation Site), and Justice Grown – Ewing (Dispensary & Cultivation)
  • North: NETA NJ, LLC – Phillipsburg, (Dispensary & Cultivation)
    GTI New Jersey, LLC – Paterson (Dispensary & Cultivation)

Before receiving final approval to grow marijuana, the applicants will be “required to pass background checks, provide evidence of a dispensary location and municipal approval, and comply with all regulations under the Division of Medical Marijuana, including safety and security requirements”.

According the DOH representatives, “if either company currently selected from South Jersey default or is found to be not in compliance” with final requirements, “another company would be selected”. While the DOH noted that “some applicants (like GTI) applied for more than one region, the Department only allowed an applicant to be chosen for one region”. DOH did not discount the possibility that GTI could possibly be selected to replace one of the two selected applicants “if one fails a background check, and if GTI chose to operate in Clayton, rather than Paterson”. Both locations border extremely lucrative markets – New York City and Philadelphia/ Wilmington.

DOH representatives also noted that they were not involved directly in the rule-making that might apply to recreational marijuana growing and processing businesses. “Depending on the law’s structure – any company may be permitted to make application to grow and sell recreational marijuana anywhere where permitted by local ordinance.

That brings the ball back to Clayton Borough officials, who could be urged to pass an ordinance that would ban or discourage marijuana businesses from locating within the Borough’s borders.

Examples of such Ordinances are provided in our Special Features section.


Newfield Police suit could impact Clayton/Elk PD “merger” plans

Newfield PD was disbanded illegally, lawsuit claims

As plans to merge operations of the Clayton and Elk Police Departments continue to develop in secrecy, a critical cornerstone of that plan – the process for how the municipalities will protect the seniority, tenure and pension rights of officers currently employed by each department – is being challenged in court by former Newfield Police Officers displaced in a similar “action”.

Portrayed as a “poster child” for successful municipal Police Department consolidations “for efficiency and tax savings purposes”, the 2016 Franklin Township takeover of policing services in bordering Newfield Borough is being challenged in Court as “illegal” by several officers formerly employed by Newfield.

The seven-officer Newfield Police Department was dissolved on November 1, 2017, when the Franklin Township Police Department took over law enforcement duties for the 1.7-square-mile borough. A five-year agreement hammered out between Newfield and Franklin municipal officials called for Newfield to pay Franklin “between $425,000 and $494,000 annually”.

That contract, according to a Court filing, was based on a repealed New Jersey statute that was replaced with a different statute that set down rules designed to protect the seniority, tenure and pension rights of officers when such a “takeover” occurs.

Former Newfield Police Chief Edward Seibert and former Officers John Conway, Kevin Przybyszewski and Jeffrey Schaw Jr. lost their jobs when Newfield disbanded its police department. The Chief and Officers had at least a decade of service on the force prior to their “dismissal”. The former Officers are asking a state Superior Court judge to restore the Newfield Police Department and reinstate them to their positions.

The lawsuit claims that Newfield Borough conducted contract negotiations with the officers in 2017 “in bad faith” while Newfield “was in secret negotiations” with Franklin to disband the department and terminate the plaintiffs’ employment in a money-saving move. Newfield Borough, Franklin Township, and several officials from both municipalities are named as defendants. Their conduct “was motivated by ill will, maliciousness and unlawful purposes,” the suit alleges.

According to the suit, an “Interlocal Service Agreement” between the two municipalities did not require Franklin to hire any members of Newfield’s police department. They were to be given “hiring preference” for the first three months if Franklin hired new officers, but the township didn’t add any members to its force during that period, according to the lawsuit. Franklin did hire 10 new officers last month, but the plaintiffs were not among them, according to the suit.

The Officer’s lawsuit contends that the municipalities should not have structured their deal as an Interlocal Service Agreement. “There is no rational or legitimate basis for the ISA between Newfield Borough and Franklin Township, which was based on a repealed statute.” Instead, the suit states that Newfield and Franklin should have followed the state’s Shared Services Act. That statute would have prevented the Newfield officers from being fired and would have given the chief the option to serve at a reduced rank or retire, according to the suit.

The suit asks a judge to declare the agreement unlawful, reinstate the Newfield department, give back their jobs to the plaintiffs and compensate them for their lost wages. If the judge does not act on that request, the Officers ask the Court to order the Franklin Police Department to hire them and recognize their seniority.

Depending on how Clayton and Elk posture their Police Services “action”, rather than “saving taxpayer money through consolidation”, it may result in higher costs resulting from litigation, as it is in Franklin and Newfield.

In November, the Clayton Free Press asked Mayor Bianco by email if he could “advise us on the status of the Clayton – Elk Police Department consolidation under review”, and “if the Borough Council would take action on recommendations made by Blue Shield Consulting in its study before opening discussions with the Clayton public”.  We also asked Bianco if the newly created “Department” would be led by our current Police Chief, or another leader would be brought in to direct the newly formed Department. We also asked how costs for operations would be allocated between the two municipalities – on the basis of population, owner-occupied housing units / value or number of “rateables”, crime rates, overall tax revenues or something else. Finally, we asked where the “headquarters” for a newly formed Department would be located, and if “substations” would be considered at either end of the Policing District.

As of January 7, 2019 – we have not yet received a response from the Mayor.

A copy of the Newfield Police Officer’s lawsuit is provided in our Special Features section.


Clayton Clippers of the month for December 2018

Our 14 Clayton Clippers of the Month for December included:

In Simmons Elementary School, Amelia Messice, Matthew Hunt, Moriah Bull, Adriana Casas, DaVaye Kirschner, Jonathan Rehm, and Maryella Gillies won the honors.

In Clayton Middle School, special recognition was given to Damien Lerner, Thomas Wenzel and Story McCullough.

In Clayton High School, our Clippers of the Month included Robert Knapp, McKenna Ryan, Jacquelyn O’Hanlon, and Hatice Akin.

Congratulations to these most outstanding students from the Clayton Free Press and your Clayton hometown community!


You can read our January 2019 issue below:

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CLAYTON FREE PRESS – New Jersey Free Press, LLC
P.O. Box 201, Clayton, NJ 08312
(856) 243-2499

Updated 1-06-2019
Publishers and Editors, The Clayton Free Press


How to contact your Borough Elected Officials

All of the following can be reached through the Borough switchboard, at: 856-881-2882

Email contacts:

  • Mayor Tom Bianco –
  • Council President Tony Saban –
  • Councilman Charles Simon –
  • Councilwoman Darlene Vondran –
  • Councilman Frank Brown –
  • Councilwoman Vonzora (Vonnie) Jackson –
  • Councilman Frank Rollo –