CLARK — A police chief and a sergeant who state authorities said should be fired for racist habits and "deeply troubling" behavior claim they can't lose their jobs because investigators spent too much time investigating.

Chief Pedro Matos and Sgt. Joseph Teston are fighting back in court after Attorney General Matthew Platkin called for their termination last November.

Platkin's comments came at the same time the OAG released a 43-page report carefully detailing accusations of misconduct, racist statements, internal affairs abuses, and other improprieties against the police officers and Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso.

The report was the result of an investigation that began years ago.

(Clark Township Police Department via Facebook/Canva)
(Clark Township Police Department via Facebook/Canva)

The Union County Prosecutor's Office superseded the Clark police department on July 23, 2020.

Matos and Teston, who was in charge of internal affairs until the takeover, were notified the same day that they faced an internal affairs investigation for racist comments, according to court documents. They have been on paid leave since the takeover.

According to lawsuits filed by attorneys for Matos and Teston, the length of the investigation violated the "45-day rule." The rule requires, with exceptions, that once there is sufficient evidence to file a disciplinary charge, it must be filed within the next 45 days.

The lawsuits claims that the OAG stopped collecting new information in April 2022 but didn't notify the officers for another year and a half.

RELATED: NJ says Clark police chief, sergeant should be fired

Welcome to Clark sign on Lake Avenue (Google Maps)
Welcome to Clark sign on Lake Avenue (Google Maps)

Charles Sciarra, an attorney for Matos, said at an April 26 court hearing that just because investigators claim they were collecting new information doesn't mean they were, reported.

"They blew it,” Sciarra reportedly said.

Micheal Symons, a spokesman for the OAG, said to that Matos is unfit to lead the police department.

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"Chief Matos’s lawsuit does not deny that he engaged in the underlying improprieties. He instead raises a procedural issue he seeks to exploit to evade accountability for his actions," Symons said.

Court records show Superior Court Judge Lisa Walsh denied a request to dismiss Matos and Teston's lawsuits on Monday. Another court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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