NJSPCA admits ‘falling short’ when instructing use of fake emails

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The New Jersey SPCA now admits it "fell short" when it instructed its law enforcement officers to use fake names and emails to lobby lawmakers not to take away the group's power. Some critics say the strategy, which was exposed Tuesday as part of an ongoing Kane In Your Corner investigation, is just further proof the embattled agency needs to be eliminated.

In a written statement, NJSCPA president Steve Shatkin, says the email, sent by Warrant Commander and Trustee Phil Amato to more than 50 NJSPCA law enforcement personnel, was motivated by some officers' concerns that they might face unspecified "future retaliation" if they used their names. Shatkin says officers can remain anonymous, but should always disclose their affiliation with the agency. He also says that contrary to Amato's email, the group's high-powered lobbyist, Tim Martin of MBI Gluckshaw, had nothing to do with deciding the strategy.

The "fake name" email evoked outrage from critics of the NJSPCA, which was the subject of a yearlong Kane In Your Corner investigation that exposed a backlog of uninvestigated cases, no-bid contracts between the group and board members and other irregularities. 

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D - Elizabeth), the sponsor of the NJSPCA reform legislation, said the group "made the case for its own demise."

"How can a law enforcement agency tell people to lie?" asked Brian Stone, a former NJSPCA officer. "If that's what you feel you need to do to stay in existence, you don't deserve to be in existence."

The reform bill already passed the state Senate by a unanimous vote. A final vote in the Assembly is set for Monday. Lesniak says Gov. Chris Christie has indicated he will sign it if it passes.

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