Port Authority boss accused of torpedoing sister’s police promotion

Lawsuit claims promotion was denied after Port Authority chair interceded

By: - July 20, 2022 10:45 am

Kevin O'Toole, chair of the Port Authority's board of commissioners, derailed his sister's career after a family feud erupted, the sister alleges. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

A police supervisor in an Essex County township has accused her brother — Kevin O’Toole, the powerful chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s board of commissioners — of derailing her career because of a family spat, according to an explosive new lawsuit.

Cedar Grove Police Captain Eileen O’Toole said she was on track to become the department’s police chief in January but instead got stripped of her duties after her brother, a former GOP state senator who’s close with Cedar Grove Township Manager Thomas Tucci, threatened to ask the township to investigate her and her longtime companion, Michael Kraynanski, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in state Superior Court.

The threat came after a family argument that erupted the night before Eileen O’Toole’s daughter was married in November, according to the lawsuit. Kevin O’Toole and his wife skipped the wedding and directed friends to do so, too, according to the complaint.

The wedding snub kicked off a months-long family feud largely battled over text messages, with Kevin O’Toole and his wife, Bethany, blitzing Eileen O’Toole and Kraynanski with texts threatening personal and professional retaliation, the lawsuit alleges.

“I will be sending a request to the Caldwell Township to schedule an internal investigation,” Kevin O’Toole wrote in one text, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was first reported by NBC-4 NY, whose reporter talked with Eileen O’Toole.

“His way of punishing me was to damage my career,” she told the news station.

Kevin O’Toole, who is not listed as a defendant, told the New Jersey Monitor the allegations against him are “meritless.”

Eileen O’Toole has worked at the 30-officer department, where she’s one of just three women, since 2004.

She served as a supervisor for nine years, including as officer in charge beginning in June 2021, when former police chief Joseph Cirasa left for retirement, the lawsuit states. She also served as acting town manager in July 2021 when Tucci went on vacation, becoming the only woman to serve in a supervisory capacity in Tucci’s 33 years as manager, according to the lawsuit.

She was told last summer and fall by Tucci and various other township officials that she would become chief in January, and even negotiated her chief’s salary with Tucci, according to the complaint.

But instead, Tucci called Eileen O’Toole to his office in January, told her she wouldn’t be promoted to chief because “the town council is disgusted with you” and accused her of insubordination and misappropriating the police chief’s car, according to the complaint. Tucci then promoted a male officer to serve as officer in charge.

Eileen O’Toole accuses Tucci, the township council, and the township and police department of creating a hostile work environment, retaliation, and gender discrimination.

She also noted in the lawsuit that she and Kraynanski had previously questioned Kevin O’Toole’s investments in a commercial real estate property that was before Cedar Grove’s zoning committee.

Kevin O’Toole said his family has fought in recent years over vaccines, politics, and other things.

“It isn’t every day that you read about family drama in the news,” he said in an email to the New Jersey Monitor. “The last two-plus years has been challenging with the pandemic. Some of us (including me and my immediate family) believe that everyone should be vaccinated, while others in my family have very strong opinions against vaccinations. Whether it be on vaccination policy or politics, the family has had various disagreements.”

He said his sister and father, Robert O’Toole, a former Cedar Park mayor, have always supported Tucci. “They have a well-documented history of trusting his judgment as he ran the township, as do I,” he wrote.

Kevin O’Toole said he recently was a victim of harassment and stalking and asked the Essex County Prosecutor‘s Office for help, but he declined to provide details.

“The protection of my wife and my two children is my most sacred priority,” he wrote.

Matthew Giacobbe, Cedar Grove township’s attorney, called the allegations “specious.”

John Kennedy, the officer Tucci chose for chief instead of Eileen O’Toole, has the longest departmental service and the highest educational degree among the candidates Tucci considered, Giacobbe added. Tucci also offered Kennedy the chief position in March 2017, but Kennedy declined the promotion at that time, he said.

“The township and Township Manager Tucci look forward to vigorously defending this frivolous lawsuit and will seek fees and costs,” Giacobbe said. “We will readily demonstrate to the court and to the public that the most qualified and best-suited individual was selected to serve as the chief of police in Cedar Grove.”

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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