Shocking racist and sexist recordings first revealed in legal papers allegedly involve a New Jersey town's mayor and former police chief, which has led to the question: Was taxpayer money used to try to keep the whole controversy secret?
Controversy, outrage and calls for resignation were growing in Clark Township on Monday, after Mayor Sal Bonaccorso was accused of repeatedly using the hate-filled and racist language, which can be heard on recordings obtained by NBC New York.
A source familiar with the recordings provided a copy of the recordings, and a second source confirmed their authenticity.
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A couple of years ago, a police lieutenant turned whistleblower privately recorded the mayor. One recording is of Bonaccorso allegedly using racial slurs to describe Jewish people and Black people.
"They was looking for some ------ walking around or something," he can allegedly be heard saying in other recordings, as well as "f-----g hang the (racial slur) up there."
The recordings include comments about female officers.
"As far as female cops go, I hope there's never any, but they're all f-----g disasters that I've seen," the audio reveals.
The recordings include conversations of Bonaccorso talking to the one-time Clark Police chief and a sergeant. One conversation centers on the Republican mayor having to apologize to the nearby city of Plainfield for a 2017 incident where girls basketball players complained about a puppet found hanging in a locker room.
The then-chief was recorded saying: "I want to prove that them f-----g (racial slur) did it,"
The sergeant at a different time also heard making offensive statements, saying "he ain't a big dude. He's just got a big f-----g monkey head on him."
No denials — in fact, no comment at all — from the mayor, town hall, or the two Clark police officials were given to NBC New York, despite numerous requests for comment. Three Clark police officers who are allegedly involved remain on administrative leave. Bonaccorso said Monday he plans to make more public comments in the coming days.
NBC New York obtained the recordings after nj.com first broke the story. The mayor did respond to their story, not denying the tapes' authenticity, but instead saying "I have many, many Black friends in my life...I mean I've been here 22 years, never had a problem, and all of a sudden this is coming up? I find it offensive. I do."
Mayor Adrian Mapp of nearby Plainfield says Clark residents should demand Bonaccorso resign, adding that the racist remarks in Clark Township are just one symptom.
"To use those kinds of racist remarks is something that cannot be overlooked, it can't be explained away, and clearly it was his voice on the tape," Mapp said. "Black folks have been afraid at times to go through Clark because of the kind of profiling that we have experienced over the years as a people."
On Monday evening, residents in Clark sounded off directed to their mayor and local leaders at a township meeting, demanding answers and expressing outrage.
“I’m bringing my daughter up in this town. I don’t want people when they meet her to think she’s racist cause she’s from Clark,” said Jessica Pizzella. Another woman called the town officials “cowards” and “disgraceful” as she walked out of the meeting.
The man who made the recordings, Lieutenant Antonio Manata, declined to comment through his attorney. Manata has told others he has faced retaliation.
Past legal papers obtained by News 4 show the town paid Mananta $400,000 dollars on condition he turn over the offensive recordings.
"That's an abuse of the public purse," Mapp said.
Bonaccorso responded to the comments made by town residents Monday night, addressing the lawsuit and settlement.
“The suit that involved myself and 3 other people, we wanted to vigorously fight it. Insurance company wanted to settle it on a business decision, we disagreed, Bonaccorso said. “Out of the $400,000, $70,000 was paid by Clark. The rest was by the insurance company.”
Residents said they were left disappointed in the mayor’s response to the controversy.
“I guess I was really hoping for more of a heart response, something that spoke to what went out to the public, what everyone heard, those tapes that were really, really disturbing,” said Dr. LaTesha Sampson. “I think in order for there to be healing, there needs to be conversations that are open, that are honest where people can express how they feel and then as a community we can move forward. To hide from that keeps the wound open and it needs to close.”
The tapes were turned over to the town two years ago, but remained in the shadows until now.
Back in 2020, the Union County Prosecutor took over the running of the Clark Police Department amid misconduct allegations, with the state attorney general promising a public report on the problems there. No word on when the attorney general's report will be released.