Click here to see Asbury Park's basic emergency management plan.
February 11, 2008 -- According to a county enforcement official, former Monmouth County Emergency Management Coordinator Harry J. Conover Jr. has been indicted. Jurisdiction of the case, which involved charges against Conover for allegedly pumping county gasoline into the privately owned vehicle of another county employee, was moved from Monmouth County, for which Conover was employed at the time, to Somerset County for investigation. The move was to avoid any question of a conflict. The source said the Somerset County Prosecutor's office has obtained an indictment.
Conover's position as Emergency Management Coordinator for Monmouth County was under the County Sheriff's office at the time Asbury Radio began trying to contact him in the summer of 2006. We made numerous attempts to speak with Conover regarding the status of emergency management plans for Asbury Park and the immediate area. When he finally returned our calls, several weeks later, he said he'd have to seek permission before he could agree to appear on the show or furnish information to us for the show. He also said that he'd spent the previous weekend answering calls from all the major networks over an emergency that had taken place, which gave the impression that he was free to speak to directly to the media.
Conover didn't call us back. His position was put under the Monmouth County Prosecutor's office. Then on March 21, 2007, Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin's office charged Conover, then 58, "with third degree Official Misconduct, third degree Tampering with Public Records or Information and the disorderly persons offense of Theft in connection with an incident which occurred on March 13, 2007."
Also today (Feb. 11, 2008), a Monmouth County Grand Jury charged William Doggett, 68, of Freehold Township, with third degree Official Misconduct, for gasoline-related offenses, which the prosecutor's press release alleges took place in February and March of last year.
"If convicted, Doggett faces a maximum potential custodial sentence of up to 5 years in State Prison," reads the release. Doggett was also employed by the county. He was Deputy Superintendent of the Monmouth County Department of Weights and Measures.
We don't know at this time if the two indictments are related.
The release went on to say, "An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office revealed that in February and March of 2007, Doggett, a county employee for approximately 28 years, took his assigned county vehicle to the Central Motor Pool. He then pumped gasoline from the County gas pumps into one or more 5 gallon gas containers. The 5 gallon containers were located in the trunk of his assigned county vehicle when Doggett put gasoline in them. Doggett's job duties and responsibilities did not justify or otherwise explain his actions. Standard procedure at the County gas pumps provides for gasoline to be pumped by an attendant. In addition, standard procedure requires that anyone who obtains gasoline at the County pumps complete receipts for the gasoline. Doggett did not complete any receipts for the gasoline that he pumped into the containers which were located in the trunk of his assigned county vehicle."
Update on Conover Indictment:
On January 31, 2008, it was officially recorded that the Grand Jurors of and for the State of NJ returned an indictment against Harry Joseph Conover, Jr., the former Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management for Monmouth County on three counts:
Count One accused Conover of Official Misconduct for allegedly made a false Monmouth County Motorpool gasoline inventory control record.
Count Two accused Conover of, on March 13th, 2007, placing "gasoline owned by Monmouth County into a privately owned vehicle, to wit, a 2002 Chevrolet Malibu (N.J. Reg. SEB-87K), having a value of less than $200ů"
Count Three states that on that same date, Conover filed an allegedly false reportůso that it would "be taken as a genuine part of information or recordů"
The case was assigned to Judge Ira E. Kreizman. A pre-arraignment conference has been set for March 4th. The date for the arraignment status conference is expected to be set approximately two weeks after that date.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. Since Conover has no prior record it is doubtful he will do any jail time if convicted. However, if he is convicted he will forfeit his right to hold a public office.
Ironically, another Monmouth County employee, William Doggett, has been indicted on a gas-related charge, allegedly pumping county gas into containers that he then placed in the trunk of his assigned county vehicle in February and March of 2007. The Monmouth County prosecutor's office arrested Doggett the following August on a charge of theft, a disorderly persons charge, which carried a sentence of six months. A source close to the investigation said there didn't seem to be evidence linking the two incidents. Doggett, 68, who was Deputy Superintendent of the Monmouth County Department of Weights and Measures, if convicted of the indictment charge of Official Misconduct now would face a maximum custodial sentence of up to five years in state prison.
Asbury Radio raised the issue of Asbury Park's emergency preparedness in summer 2006. (Read our opinion piece in the Asbury Park Press from November 2006.) We were alarmed by the failure of then-Monmouth County Emergency Management Coordinator, Harry Conover, to respond to our questions about evacuation plans and other preparations for Monmouth County and specifically, Asbury Park. Asbury Park's emergency plan has yet to be successfully revised. Conover was eventually fired from his position under County Prosecutor Luis Valentin. In the Press article, despite many months Conover's second in command still is identified as "the acting" coordinator. We have to ask that if Monmouth County, with its numerous lakes, inlets and miles of oceanfront, is an at-risk area in the event of a hurricane, why is it being allowed to leave this important top position unfilled? It's time to hold every municipality equally responsible for compliance with state emergency guidelines.
Harry Conover Emerges!! After over a month of phone calls and emails to Monmouth County's Emergency Management Officer, Harry Conover, he called us yesterday, on 9/11/06, about a month and a week after we started recording our attempts to reach him. We had gotten so frustrated that we even called the emergency number on Harry's office answering machine, which took us to the county sheriff's office. Maybe it was the nice man we spoke to there.
Harry says he was getting the emails and the messages, but was just too busy to respond. About our invitation, so that listeners can hear how prepared Monmouth County is for a disaster, Harry said he'll have to go through possibly 7 people, including his boss, Deputy Chief Guy McCormack, in the county Prosecutor's Office, to get approval to appear on Asbury Radio. It could take weeks, he said. I'd like to know if our audience wants to wait through most of the hurricane season to get a chance to hear Harry Conover tell us how the county has prepared to help us in an emergency. Do you? Please write and tell us - email.
Some of our earlier attempts to reach Harry:
Subject: Show on Hurricane Preparedness
Date: 8/3/2006 5:26:04 PM Eastern Standard Time
Hi Harry -
Several listeners have asked that we do a show on hurricane preparedness in Monmouth County.
Consequently, I am extending an invitation to you, as the County Emergency Management Officer, to speak to our listeners on a Thursday night between 8 - 10 PM, when we are live on the air.
Alternatively, we could arrange for a taped interview. However, that would deprive listeners of the opportunity to call in their questions while you're on the air to answer them.
Please let me know what is best for you.
Information about the show is available on our web site, http://www.asburyradio.com/, and feel free to ask any questions.
All the best,
*We most recently called at 2:24 PM, Friday, 8/11/06
and spoke with Donna, who said Harry would not be back to the office. Today
is 8/17 and still no word from Harry Conover. Phone: 732 431 7400 / Fax: 732
On Asbury Radio's concerns of the past year and longer about the lack of an
emergency response plan for Asbury Park, may we call your attention to the
realities discussed in an editorial in the Sun., June 3 edition of the Asbury Park Press.
Whether you agree with the proposed fund or not, you may want to ask Asbury's
leaders to show a little more initiative in getting the plan finished.
"Hurricane modelers predict that a Category 3 hurricane that makes landfall in Asbury Park would put Newark Liberty International Airport under water. The devastation caused by such a storm would not only wipe vacation homes off the shoreline, but destroy block after block of the homes of low- and moderate-income families who happen to live long distances from our coastline. The destruction of Tropical Storm Floyd, which affected towns throughout the state, would pale by comparison." (quotes in the Press from James Lee Witt, former director of Federal Emergency Management Agency under Pres. Clinton, and James M. Loy, retired Coast Guard admiral and former deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security)