Clark, New Jersey accused of paying cop to bury Mayor Sal Bonaccorso’s racial slurs
A New Jersey town reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to silence a whistleblower who presented secret tapes of local officials, including the mayor and police chief, using racial slurs.
But now the whistleblower claims the city is withholding his pension in retaliation.
According to NJ.com, Antonio Manata, a former police lieutenant, recorded several Clark Township officials using racial slurs and making derogatory statements, then threatened to file a lawsuit to expose them. But Clark’s officials ultimately decided to shell out more than $400,000 to Manata under a deal that required the ex-cop to hand over his tapes.
In seven recordings obtained and published per NJ.com, Manata captured the mayor and two senior police officials calling black people “ghosts,” “glow,” and “ns.”
In a recording As of 2019, Clark Township Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, a Republican serving his sixth term, was leaving a meeting at the Clark Recreation Center when an officer pointed to ropes hanging overhead and asked what they were.
“We [expletive] hang the ghosts up there,” Bonaccorso replied as laughter filled the audio.
“Therefore the [Arthur L. Johnson High School] incident again,” the cop replied, referring to a 2017 racist incident in which a black puppet was found hanged at a local high school.
“What if I went to a Plainfield [expletive] board meeting in front of a room full of them and get up and talk about it? said Bonaccorso.
In another taped conversation from 2019, Clark Police Chief Pedro Matos spoke about reopening a bias crimes investigation into the high school incident.
“I will prove to them that they [expletive] n—-s did it,” Matos can be heard saying.
In another recording, Internal Affairs Sgt. Joseph Teston reportedly said the photo of a black suspect reminded him of a National Geographic photo and said he had a “big [expletive] monkey head.
Bonaccorso can be heard in another clip from 2019 asking about a black man that police officers were chasing.
“What ghost are you hunting in a red shirt?” he asked, repeatedly using the racial slur.
Officials were also caught on audio degrading women.
“As far as female cops go, I hope there never will be, but I can only be careful while I’m here,” Bonaccorso said, according to Manata’s draft trial that doesn’t was never filed but was obtained by NJ.com. “They are all [expletive] disasters that I have seen.
Bonaccorso did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday.
He denied to NJ.com that he had ever used racial slurs, but also refused to listen to audio obtained by the outlet to confirm it was his voice. He attempted to defend himself by saying, “I have many, many black friends in my life, many of them; and the employees here and everything else. … I’ve been here for 22 years, never had a problem, and all of a sudden it comes back? I find that offensive. I do.”
But Bonaccorso has been accused of racism in the past. According to ABC 7 New York, he said he was “pro-black for all good black people” at a rally in 2020 at the height of the George Floyd protests. He later clarified his comment saying, “I am for the people. Good people. Law-abiding, hardworking, good family, good friends. People with good intentions. If you’re black, great. If you’re white, great. If you’re Hispanic, great. It does not matter. I judge people by how you judge me.
Blacks make up less than 2% of Clark Township’s population of 15,500, according to NJ.com.
In a settlement with Manata in early 2020, Clark’s officials reportedly agreed to keep him on the police department’s payroll for two years – without working – until he can retire as a captain. . He also received a lump sum plus legal fees totaling $400,000. In exchange, Manata turned the tapes over to city authorities and agreed not to file his proposed lawsuit. The city also signed a document denying the allegations.
Six months after Manata settled with Clark Township, supervision at the police department changed. According to NJ.com, the Union County District Attorney’s Office took over the department and found “credible allegations of misconduct.” Matos, Teston and Cpt. Vincent Concina was immediately put on leave pending an investigation. But nearly two years later, the three officers are reportedly still on paid leave, raking in more than $763,000 through March 15.
Now Manata is not expected to receive his first pension payment, due to an ongoing investigation at the police department.
The Clark Township Police Department did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday.