Sheriff Michael Saudino of Bergen County, New Jersey, announced his resignation from the post on Friday, following the release of a recording where he was allegedly caught making racist and homophobic remarks.
In a brief statement posted on Facebook, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Saudino submitted his immediate resignation as sheriff and that four other people — Executive Undersheriff George Buono and Undersheriffs Robert Colaneri, Brian Smith, and Joseph Hornyak — were also leaving their positions with immediate effect.
According to CBS News, Michael Saudino’s resignation as sheriff came after WNYC public radio obtained a copy of a recording that purportedly featured him speaking to his subordinates in a meeting that took place in January, on the same day as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s inauguration. Saudino was reportedly heard on the recording telling other officials that Murphy’s plans to legalize marijuana would allow African-Americans to “come in [and] do whatever the [expletive] they want.” He was also heard telling his subordinates not to worry, as he planned to “tie the hands of cops” to ensure that they remain tough against crime.
In addition to the comments regarding black people, Saudino allegedly said that Gurbir Grewal, who became the first Sikh attorney general in the United States, only got appointed because of the “turban.” The tape also revealed that the Bergen County sheriff questioned the sexual orientation of New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver while meeting with his subordinates.
“Is she gay? Because she’s never been married. Is she gay?” Saudino reportedly said, as quoted by CBS New York.
Following the release of the tape, Murphy issued a statement where he encouraged Michael Saudino to resign from his job if it was indeed his voice that was heard on the recording. Similarly, Grewal released a separate statement where he said that he wasn’t too fazed by Saudino’s alleged comments, but added that his words were nonetheless unacceptable and offensive.
“I have thick skin and I’ve been called far worse. But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist and hurtful. New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better.”
Michael Saudino, a New Jersey sheriff, resigns over racist remarks—including disparaging Governor Phil Murphy’s proposal to legalize marijuana, saying “in other words, let the blacks come in.” https://t.co/5duvKGlKA6— The Appeal (@theappeal) September 22, 2018
Prior to the announcement of his resignation, Saudino apologized for the remarks he was caught saying on the recording, stressing that they were “not representative” of who he is as a person, or who he has been in more than 46 years of service to Bergen County as an officer of the law. He added that he has since “reached out directly” to multiple community leaders and personally apologized for the things he had previously said.
According to CBS New York, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office has had a recent history of alleged discrimination, as a former officer sued the agency earlier this year after he was purportedly fired for being gay. Chris Weston, the president of the local police benevolent association that organized a rally protesting the officer’s firing, told CBS New York that people like Michael Saudino “should not be in charge” of the otherwise “great, diverse” sheriff’s office in Bergen County.