A law enforcement official is being called out for allegedly threatening the town council president in a recording that was played at a public meeting last week.
Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi was recorded allegedly making comments about Council President Carrol McMorrow.
“I’d like to kill her but I can’t,” Cioffi allegedly said, according to a recording played by McMorrow during the public comments portion of a council meeting Wednesday night.
The tape surfaced during the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by Cioffi against the borough. The recordings were made by Cioffi, himself, according Attorney James Patuto, who has represented Cioffi on disciplinary matters but is not the attorney in this case.
A call to that attorney was not immediately returned.
“He made the tapes to protect himself against the mayor,” who Patuto says has accused Cioffi of “all types of nefarious things.”
Cioffi “could’ve taken the tapes and thrown them in the garbage,” Patuto said. “Instead he told the federal court, I have these tapes.”
“There are tapes where he’s praying for a sick child,” he added.
The snippet shared Wednesday night is from one of 120 tapes — more than 40 hours of recordings — and it was one that was not marked confidential, McMorrow said.
It was recorded on Jan. 2, 2017 using a borough-owned recorder that officials later took back. (And by took back, they asked for it repeatedly and finally filed criminal charges against the chief to get it returned, Mayor Mario M. Kranjac said at the meeting Wednesday).
“I’m playing it here for you tonight so you can have an idea of what these tapes are like,” she said. “There are other tapes with content equally disturbing to this if not worse. The conversation on this tape is between Chief Cioffi and borough employees.”
The chief allegedly says to a borough employee, about McMorrow, “she is one hell of a b—-, let me tell ya.”
And “Was Carrol breaking my b—- yesterday, or what?”
After saying he’d “like to kill her,” Cioffi allegedly says, “I look at the Shawshank Redemption and say, hmm. You know?” then he laughs.
The chief, according to McMorrow, then discusses the pros and cons of killing her with a borough employee.
“Just imagine, our chief of police, on duty, carrying a borough-issued gun, discussing with a borough employee whether or not ending my life would be worth it,” she said. “I am extremely concerned about this conversation.”
Patuto said the remarks made by the chief were workplace jokes.
“The chief has been harassed for the last two years by the mayor and council president,” Patuto said. “There was some joking going on between a lot of people in city hall just to break the tension.”
“No one is proud of these things but it’s normal … workplace talk when you have an ill-tempered chief executive who just doesn’t follow the law,” Patuto said.
McMorrow said she is frustrated by the lack of outrage by the same public officials who recently condemned Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino for his racist comments. Saudino resigned Sept. 21 after being caught on tape making comments about African Americans and the state’s Sikh attorney general.
McMorrow, a Republican in a town that for 42 years was a Democratic strong-hold, also chastised her Democratic council colleagues who voted against hiring a hearing officer — the first step in the process of bringing disciplinary charges against the chief and any other members of the police department who made disparaging comments on the tapes.
“I am extremely disappointed the three Democratic council members would vote no to allow due process to occur and to allow the truth to come out,” she said. “But then again, I know what’s on those tapes and I believe that’s what they’re trying to hide.”
Democratic council members Ed Aversa, Gloria Oh and Ellen Park did not respond to requests for comment.
Cioffi — who is one of the highest paid police chiefs in the state — and the borough have a litigious relationship.
He is suing the mayor for overstepping his powers by trying to force the chief to use his cache of vacation time, rather than having the borough pay out roughly $300,000 upon Cioffi’s retirement.
McMorrow also sued the chief for retaliation in December 2017. But the friction between the chief and the McMorrow family dates back about a decade — the council president’s husband, Michael McMorrow, is a retired Deputy Police Chief in the Englewood Cliffs Police Department who walked away from his $200,000 per year job because of a hostile work environment.
The recording from Wednesday night was first shared by Matt Katz, the WYNC reporter who made public the tape of Saudino making racist comments.