Strada reformed a wayward office. Let’s not go back.

We all remember the bad old days under Sheriff Untig and his predecessor, Sheriff Cooper.  A real scandal erupted when Cooper tried to ensure that his hand-picked man, then Lt. Untig, followed him in office.  Cooper ran Untig’s campaign and ended up being indicted over it.  It was a really close-run thing and Cooper was lucky to get off.  

Cooper’s legal arm was Gary Kraemer, a guy who would appear again in the race to unseat Republican Senator Bob Littell.  Kraemer fought to suppress voice tape recordings that prosecutors had on Cooper.  

One of the Undersheriffs from then was a Byram councilman who would later be convicted for conspiring with the New York City cannibal cop – yes, the infamous cannibal cop.  The Undersheriff was found guilty of conspiring to stalk, kill, and eat (yes… eat) his victims.  They targeted women and children.  

These were the infamous days of Dennis Pegg – a corrections officer who worked at the county jail.  He used the jail to meet young men and – according to his victims – he repeatedly raped young boys.  One of Pegg’s victims eventually killed him, but his behavior was never noticed by Sheriff Untig’s administration.  Pegg got to do his thing until he retired, collecting a fat taxpayer-paid-for pension. 

What happened after Pegg’s death was really unsettling.  Some insider made his personnel records “disappear” and important criminal evidence was lost.  And according to victims, this evidence (photos and such) could have linked Pegg to a larger circle of wrongdoing.  But someone apparently failed to secure the crime scene.  

A cannibal?  A child-molester?  Possibly more than one?  Who was doing the psychological evaluations for Sheriff Untig?  It makes you wonder.

Sheriff Untig was a shameless double-dipper whose own legislators championed a law to make what he did illegal.  His office was burdened with lawsuits – including sexual harassment of a female officer.  

It’s like something out of a horror story but it was all true… until an outsider named Mike Strada showed up and ruined the party.  Strada defeated Untig’s hand-picked successor and the chain was broken.  

Strada applied the kind of discipline he had learned in the military and shook the Sheriff’s office out of its good-ole-boy lethargy.  Some didn’t like it.  Some still don’t like it.

Now Untig is back.  He is backing a guy he hired named Andrew Boden.  Untig holds a big grudge against Sheriff Mike Strada for giving “last call” to his party.

Tuesday, June 4th, is Election Day.  Whether Sussex County moves forward with Mike Strada or goes backwards with Andrew Boden is only part of it.  The other part is to put something in place so that the complaints of individual employees – whether PBA, FOP, CWA, or anyone else – can get a hearing to report problems.  

This is why Sussex County needs an Ethics Committee – a real committee, not one made up of hand-picked insiders. The last Freeholder Board failed to create such a committee.  Jonathan Rose promised, but failed to deliver.  So let’s resolve to ask the Freeholder Board to take action on this soon. Form an Ethics Committee now!