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N.J. Town Working to Dissolve Volunteer EMS Agency

A report written by Kaitlyn Kanzler has detailed an ongoing dispute between Nutley Volunteer & Emergency Rescue Squad and the commissioner of the township its members serve. An ordinance was brought forth in late July requesting to dissolve the rescue squad, which is comprised of 50 volunteers, 16 paid EMTs and four supervisors.

The ordinance comes after township officials criticized the squad’s decision to hire an external accounting firm to assess their finances as opposed to Geltrude & Co., which had been utilized by the squad for the last 10 years. On July 9, a resolution was instated to allow the company to complete a procedures engagement, in which an accountant and client agree to examine certain aspects of an organization’s financials.

Alan Genitempo, the township attorney, said Geltrude was preferred because its founder, Dan Geltrude, was a resident of Nutley and well-known in the community. However, Jonathan Arrendondo, CEO and president of the rescue squad, said the choice was simply a matter of affordability, as they had found an individual charging less than Geltrude’s charges of $15,000. Genitempo’s concern is that the squad had not informed the township of changes in increased expenses and personnel numbers despite a $230,000 loss in operations indicated on its 2019 tax return.

Yet Arrendondo said business arrangements in the past with Geltrude would make hiring them a “clear conflict of interest,” and cites their status as an independent organization means Nutley doesn’t have the power to evaluate their financial records. He believes the real problem at hand is Alphonse Petracco, Nutley’s public safety commissioner, who is attempting to organize what he calls “a hostile takeover.”

After receiving backlash, Geltrude’s company has since retracted their proposal and a third-party accounting firm will be hired in its place, according to Genitempo.

However, Genitempo counters that Petracco does indeed have the authority according to the squad’s establishment ordinance, which also states the township can disband the company as well. While it was established in 1953, the squad didn’t become a 501(c) 3 until 1978 with the assistance of the township in efforts to generate revenue through billing and relieve residents of some taxes. Nutley pays for the squad’s building expenses and insurance. Additionally, the squad is overseen by the Department of Public Safety, which Petracco runs.

Despite their oversight, Genitempo claims the squad hasn’t reported on its operations to the township, such as a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board against former EMT Paul Dorman as well as the eventual settlement. There are also harassment allegations against the squad that weren’t brought to the attention of the township.

While Genitempo stated that the squad is required to produce all financial records to the township to prove its tax exemption status, Arrendondo argued their non-profit status does not require them to share private information of its employees, payroll records or bank statements. The squad did, however, provide the township with other statements the town is entitled to.

In an attempt to avoid litigation, Genitempo said the squad will stop receiving calls if they don’t produce all of the requested documents. The township is already in communication with neighboring squads to replace Nutley’s services. Arrendodo believes this is unfair to the taxpayers who will have to pay for emergency services in the event that Nutley is disbanded and “an insult to the men and women who proudly serve this community.”

On August 18, a public hearing will be held on the disbandment of Nutley Volunteer & Emergency Rescue Squad.

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