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Judge Accused of Trying to Help Reduce Punishment for Councilman's Daughter

The Garwood councilman's juvenile daughter was charged with possession of alcohol earlier this year in Clark.

A municipal judge serving Scotch Plains, Clark and Garwood may face disciplinary action after intervening when a Garwood councilman's daughter, a senior at Arthur L. Johnson High School, was arrested for alleged possession of alcohol earlier this year, according to a complaint filed last week.

According to a complaint filed against Judge Antonio Inacio by the NJ Advisory Committee on Municipal Conduct last week, the councilman's daughter was arrested in Clark on Jan. 29. The Garwood official is referred to as "Councilman X" in the complaint to protect his underage daughter's identity. Patch has also chosen not to identify the councilman or his daughter.

According to the complaint, the councilman's daughter was required to attend two meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous as part of her punishment and the councilman reached out to Inacio to discuss his daughter's matter, specifically, the requirement that his daughter attend the two AA meetings. 

The complaint says Inacio replied that he would look into the appropriate punishment and also volunteered to speak personally with her about the dangers of underage drinking and driving.  

The complaint says Inacio invited the councilman's wife and daughter to the Clark Municipal Court, where he "immediately ushered the wife and daughter back to [his] chambers, and spoke to the daughter about his real life experience with underage drinking and driving. While in chambers with [Inacio], Councilman X's wife and daughter never discussed the conditions of the February 1, 2013 order, and never asked [Inacio] to take any action" with respect to her punishment.

However, the complaint says, Inacio followed their meeting by inquiring about the daughter's punishment to the Clark Police Department and eventually the Juvenile Conference Committee, a court-approved program for juvenile offenders. The complaint says on April 1, Inacio composed a letter on the official stationery of the Clark Municipal Court and sent it to the chairman of the JCC.

The complaint says in the body of the letter, Inacio referenced his judicial letterhead and wrote, "I am the Municipal Court Judge for the Township of Clark, New Jersey. I am also the Municipal Court Judge for the Township of Scotch Plains, New Jersey and the Borough of Garwood, New Jersey" and also requested that the chairman consider his educating of her on drinking in lieu of her attendance at the two AA meetings.

The complaint alleges Inacio concluded the letter by writing "forgive me for being so bold, but I think my telling Councilman X's daughter of the tragedy that occurred in my life was infinitely more compelling to her than any attendance at an AA meeting would have." 

Prior to contacting the JCC, the complaint says Inacio also reached out to Clark Police Detective William Buczynski, asking if the councilman's daughter could observe court proceedings in lieu of attending AA meetings, but Buczynski indicated he had no authority over the court order.

The complaint summarizes that "By his conduct in composing a letter on his official judicial stationery that identified himself as a judge for the purpose of interceding in a juvenile matter over which he had no jurisdiction and attempting with that letter to alter the terms of a court order, [Inacio] attempted to use the power and prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of the daughter of the Garwood councilman" and that his intervention also "created the appearance that he was attempting to curry favor with the councilman." 

The second count of the complaint states that Inacio has also represented the councilman in the purchase of his home, and his business, in debt collection matters. It alleges that Inacio was still representing the councilman for several months when he was named the Garwood municipal judge, a violation of the New Jersey Rules of Court. The councilman's case was eventually taken over by Garwood attorney Gary I. Maher, but not until April, while Inacio was appointed judge in May, according to the complaint.

Attorney for the councilman, Jay Surgent of Scarinci Hollenbeck in Lyndhurst, declined comment when reached by Patch. 

Officials in Clark, Garwood and Scotch Plains also declined comment.

Patch did not receive a response when trying to contact Inacio's Clark office.
doowrag13 December 13, 2013 at 09:07 AM
It's time for Councilman "x" to resign. It now 100% obvious that he's using Garwood for his own personal gain. The $25,000+/year in benefits he could be paying thru his business now a judge who was his business/personal attorney and who he appointed. Do us all a favor and please resign! You've been nothing but a parasite feeding off our tax dollars.
Marion Morrison December 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Sad day for our judicial system when such blatant favoritism is being applied in case where the judge and defendant's family are intimately involved in other matters. Inacio should have recused himself from ANY involvement in this matter. The use of official letterhead to request special treatment is incredible.
bayway mike December 19, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Let me get this right, this judge isn't a double dipper, he's a triple dipper.. All at the taxpayers expense, don't you love it??
Captain Crusader December 20, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Heard this guy gets lit up like a xmas tree and strolls on his merry way. Does not seem honorable to me. Didn't he let also let a councilman in plainfield off the hook? hmmmm

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