NJ Newspaper Cries Foul After Police Seize Stolen Water Meter

A New Jersey newspaper is crying foul after police seized an allegedly stolen water meter the outlet obtained as part of an investigation into corruption at the local water utility.

New Brunswick Today's editor, Charles Kratovil, said police obtained a search warrant for the New Brunswick Water Utility meter, which which the paper said it obtained from a confidential source.

On Dec. 16, the newspaper put a broadcast on Facebook featuring the meter, which a former utility employee was "proof that a crime has been committed." Kratovil said that someone at the utility saw the meter in the broadcast and reported it missing. 

New Brunswick Police Capt. Joseph T. Miller said that the department had asked the paper to hand over the meter several times after learning it was stolen, but Kratovil declined to hand it over on multiple occasions.

Miller added that the department is currently among several agencies conducting a criminal investigation into the utility, and that two people from the utility had been arrested earlier this month for allegedly taking bribes.

"A criminal investigation kind of outweighs (a newspaper's investigation)," Miller said.

Sean Monahan, the co-founder and publisher of New Brunswick Today, said that police also wanted to seize one of the news outlet's cameras used to report on the meter. 

"The execution of this questionable warrant is a very serious concern, and not only because the item taken had the potential to support or prove allegations of corruption in the Water Utility's Billing and Meter Reading Division," Monahan said. "Even more alarming was the revelation that police were originally hoping to also seize our video camera, simply because it had been used in the production of a news broadcast featuring the water meter."

The newspaper is asking New Brunswick residents to attend a city council meeting Wednesday to speak out on the seizure.

It is also requesting that New Brunswick police publicly provide evidence that led it to believe the meter was stolen and to allow independent testing of the device outside of Middlesex County.

Miller declined to comment on both requests, citing the criminal investigation.

NBC 4 New York has reached out to the city of New Brunswick for comment.

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