Political machinations decimate the local government in Roselle

Brandon Bernier and Denise Wilkerson

A palace coup of sorts is underway in Roselle, where borough offices have been depleted by resignations, firings, and suspensions leaving part-time elected officials in a position to vastly exceed their authority.

Police Chief Stacey Williams was secretly suspended in order to head off a potential disclosure of criminal behavior among political insiders and the Fire Chief has put in for an extended sick leave while the Business Administrator, Chief Financial Officer, Superintendent of Public Works, Building Inspector, Zoning Officer, and Code Enforcement Supervisor are all gone.

Staff are being terminated or forced out of their jobs so that they may be replaced by politically connected people who are less qualified or left vacant and there are seven lawsuits filed over improper treatment of public employees.

“This has been orchestrated by Councilman (Brandon) Bernier and Councilwoman Denise Wilkerson with the blessing of the Mayor and the rest of the supporting council,” said former Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau. “The motive is very Basic….Power and Greed.”

Bernier, the Council President, and Wilkerson are known to be minions of Senator Joe Cryan, the racist and misogynist career politician who has taken steps to increasingly exert control over patronage and politics in Roselle since he attained the senate seat representing Elizabeth, Union, and the predominantly Black borough.

“She has affected people’s livelihoods, people with families, children, people have taken ill due to her mess and behavior,” said an anonymous Facebook user of Wilkerson. “It is truly UNBECOMING and lacks good taste.”

“Didn’t she back Atkins for months only to try to unseat him for her own political gain?,” asked the same Facebook user, who seemed incensed over political ads Wilkerson is running on the social media network. “She said she just buried her mother yesterday and not even 24 hours later she is running paid political ads attacking Chairman Reginald Atkins stating he’s trying to kill her because he sent a letter advising her of a scheduled Democratic Committee meeting. Kill you how?”

Wilkerson’s Facebook page is controlled by Bernier, who is allegedly controlling the borough’s finances in the absence of a qualified professional. Bernier’s aunt is Celeste Sitarsky, who has repeatedly filed lawsuits against borough taxpayers and is employed in the Public Works Department.

Councilwoman Denise Wilkerson’s Facebook page is controlled by Brandon Bernier.

“The civil rights of the only caring councilperson, Cynthia Johnson, are being trampled on with no regard for justice,” said Dansereau.

Dansereau said administration duties are now being controlled by the two council members who are at Cryan’s beck and call.

Bernier and Wilkerson are said to be behind the move to get rid of Police Chief Stacey WIlliams, a hometown hero that rose through the ranks to become the highest municipal law enforcement official but still resides in the community. Bernier is originally from Elizabeth and Wilkerson is a transplant from Jersey City.

Suspended Roselle Police Chief Stacey Williams is seen here between retired Chief of Police Brian K. Barnes and Mayor Donald Shaw when he was promoted to the top law enforcement job in Roselle. Sources say Councilman Brandon Bernier and Councilwoman Denise Wilkerson engineered false charges to remove Williams in an attempt to create the opportunity to appoint a civilian police director who would be subject to political control.

Sources say Bernier and Wilkerson trumped up false charges to remove Williams in an attempt to engineer some justification to appoint a civilian police director, who would be subject to political control.

Williams, a 30-year veteran of the department, began his career in Roselle in 1993 as part of the Safe Streets program. He served as a patrolman on the Roselle/Linden Joint Patrol Unit for 19 years before moving to the narcotics division in the detective bureau in 2004.

Williams was promoted to sergeant in 2012, lieutenant in 2015, and captain in 2018, before he was put in charge in 2021.

During his tenure, Williams graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a degree in public administration and attended the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police’s New Chiefs Mentoring Program.

Over his years of service, Williams said at the time of his ascension to the office of Chief of Police, “I’ve done nothing but give my all to the Borough of Roselle. My goal is to always complete the task, help citizens, and provide a service. I enjoy helping people, no matter who they are or what they’ve been through, our purpose is to help and that’s what I’m here to do.”

“Stacey Williams is a tenacious, hardworking and caring member of our law enforcement who has dedicated his life to this borough while working tirelessly to climb through the ranks,” said Mayor Donald Shaw, who added that Williams has been a pillar within the community for decades.

Williams, who is typically personable and openly engaging, declined to comment on his situation but others were more candid about the blatant political effort to usurp his position.

Senator Joe Cryan previously served as Union County Sheriff

Speaking about the suspension of the borough’s top cop, Dansereau said, “I am sure the Chief has a lawyer handling the matter,” and the former Mayor said Williams is “Just another casualty of Cryan’s political war executed by his followers.”

Cryan, who is employed as head of the Middlesex County Utilities Authority in addition to his post as a New Jersey State Senator, pockets more than $330,000 a year at taxpayer expense in combined salaries.

Cryan’s family members are also soaking the taxpayers with lucrative salaries because the powerful political insider has secured at least 10 of them jobs on the public payroll at public expense.

Cryan’s daughter-in-law Michelle M. Cryan is an investigator for the Union County Sheriff’s Office, whose base pay was $68,864.88 in 2021, and is registered to vote as a Republican in Hunterdon County. It is not known if Bernier’s plan is to install her as the civilian police director but some say that is a possible way to double or triple her salary.

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