The Toast of Franklin Township

Brothers of Franklin Township

From left, the brothers of Franklin Township Local 154: Darrin Russo, Steve Ellmyer, Ken Daly, Tony Presutti, Jim Ferguson, Joe Lombardo, and Kenneth Schwarts.

Some one-liners and more from those who know Pat Colligan best

By Mitchell Krugel

Since every historic retirement should culminate with an allstar roast, let this one begin with Jim Ferguson. When Pat Colligan came on with the Franklin Township PD in 1993, Ferguson was one of his supervisors.

Ferguson retells the story of the basketball game, and the extent Pat would go for a good joke.

The story begins with a group of Franklin Township Local 154 members attending a Nets game at Brendan Byrne Arena. It was basketball giveaway night, and one of the members hurled a ball toward the Nets bench. Almost hit a player.

“So security came and, long story short, everything calmed down. We were able to stay, but then quietly leave,” Ferguson says. Darrin Russo, the Somerset County Sheriff who is hosting this gathering of brothers Pat came on and came up with in Franklin Township in his office, is seated across the table from Ferguson.

“About a week later, I get a visit,” Ferguson continues. “Of course, the Nets played in Meadowlands, which is State Police jurisdiction. And a trooper came to my office inquiring about an incident at the Nets game. I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I was white as a ghost. I know I’m not getting much help from above me. I’m going to have to take one for the team. I’m not giving anyone up.”

Russo takes it from there.

“Pat and I are in the records room. We look through the shade watching Jim in his office. He says to the Trooper, ‘I was there, so I really can’t be part of what you’re saying. I’ll have to call my boss.’ He grabs the phone and we’re like, ‘No, no, not the phone.’ We come running down the hallway.”

The trooper was a friend of Pat’s, who he put up to punk Ferguson.

“They got me good,” Ferguson admits.

Propose a roast

The roasts are also toasts and stories that shaped and offer tribute to the man with myths and legends. The boys in the room are the ones who hired Pat, trained him, saw him become a legendary union rep and are most likely to have a steak and a Miller Lite with him, like they did a few weeks before he retired.

They include Ferguson, who selected Pat for the detective bureau after he served just a year-plus in patrol.

“I took heat for that,” he quips.

And Russo, who opens with, “The only full-time person I ever trained was Pat Colligan.”

And Tony Presutti, who will not tell the “jacket police” story but was a sergeant who supervised Pat in patrol.

“I would not recommend him for promotion, so I single-handedly caused his ascension to PBA state president because I held him back to patrol status,” Presutti cracks.

And Kenny Daly, who came on in 2003, succeeded Pat as Local 154 State Delegate, is now the SOA president and will not tell the story about Pat’s first brush with alcohol. But he would certainly raise a glass when he says, “I remember vividly not knowing him well, but people saying he’s going to be the next state president. It’s just funny to remember back to people identifying him as a future state PBA president so early when that probably wasn’t even a blip on his radar.”

And Kenneth Schwarz, who retired from Franklin five years ago after 26 years on. He was hired with Pat, and they went to the academy together.

“It’s 992, class without a clue,” Schwarz proclaims. “Pat was our class president, and you can see the salesmanship as soon as you meet him. You just start talking to him and he could probably sell you a flat tire if he wanted to.”

Toast masters

Only a pitcher – well, several pitchers – of you know what are missing when the storytelling advances. But detailing Pat’s PBA prowess leads Russo to begin at the beginning.

Local 154 had elections coming up in the late ‘90s. Russo pushed Pat for president, which he was reluctant to do.

“The joke was, ‘Yeah, that union stuff, I’m really not into that.’” Russo recalls. “Knowing what he did in the detective bureau, he had the presence, he had the verbiage and he had the style. I was like, ‘No, you’re going to be doing this union stuff.’ He won his first election by two votes.”

Russo had become a State PBA executive board member and when he was promoted in 2002, he had Pat primed to succeed him.

“When I brought to the state meeting as a new delegate, I told him, ‘You got to get to know this guy, this guy and this guy. But watch out for so-and-so because he hates me. He said, ‘I got you.’ It was like a week later, he tells me, ‘Hey, I got so-and-so’s phone number.’”

Presutti was SOA president when Pat took over as State Delegate, and they had to navigate some tough times when the township would not give in on anything. In fact, the township wouldn’t even negotiate, and that’s where Pat first showed how to take it to the next level and outside the box.

Daly shared how Pat worked some magic to get the department the cost-of-living adjustment.

“Stop calling it a cost-of-living adjustment,” Presutti asserts. “It was a great ploy. It’s how we got our salaries up to where it was normal. We worked with the township manager where he said, ‘Listen, we need to get your salaries up.’ We worked the numbers, and it got us at least to be competitive where we were able to draw some people in and make more money.”

There is no time, or calling, really, to tell all the details of some stories. Like the one at the PBA Mini Convention when Local 154 members were playing cards late into the night and chipped in with a bounty to take a picture of Pat sleeping. Nobody would take it.

Or when Schwarz and Pat rode their first Police Unity Tour in 2009.

“We rode down, and both made it, no issues, no problems. He says, ‘I feel good. I think we could ride home.’ I felt good, too,” Schwarz reveals. “We get up the next day, we took a few steps and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, my legs are killing me.’ He goes, ‘Mine, too. Ain’t no way in hell I ride home.’”

Proposing some toasts

Somerset County Undersheriff Joe Lombardo did a stint in IA during his 25 years with Franklin Township, where he retired from in 2010. Pat had a unique way of making his presence felt to Lombardo when having to meet about a member who had been summoned to IA.

“I’m kind of anal with the way I put things on my desk. Pat would make it a point to come in and he’d just sit there and he’d kind of move stuff on my desk,” Lombardo describes. “Pat was always the jokester. And he was a great investigator. You needed something done, he would get it done.”

And so the brothers from Local 154 raise a glass to Pat with a final round of toasts, mixed with some roasts, of course.

Like Ferguson noting that Pat had so many contacts that you could call him for anything, but more importantly: “You could trust him. Full transparency. I think that was one of the real assets that he brought to the table.”

And Presutti marveling at how Pat could be in 10 different places at 10 times because he had access to pretty much everything.

“I mean, we call him ‘Pat the cruise director,’” Presutti busts. “We would say, ‘Hey, it’s time for a trip.’ And all of a sudden, you’re on a state police boat going to watch the fireworks or you’re going up to the tower at Newark Airport.”

Daly would pull duty driving Pat somewhere, get to hear people continuously call and listen to him run the entire state from the car. He also got to hear many of Pat’s brainstorms from laying awake at 3 a.m., like the one that led to taking the pension from state control.

But that wasn’t all of what defined Pat for Daly.

“We were driving down to Cape May right before he retired,” Daly shares. “A grievance in a Local was handled. The member came out on top and was awarded a lot of time back that was taken away. He loved those kinds of victories so much.”

Another statement that gets everybody to nod demonstratively is about Pat’s vision of building up the PBA Locals to make the state PBA stronger. Then, Russo sent up one last shot.

“He brought back brotherhood,” the sheriff declares.

And for that all members can say, “Cheers!”