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Friday, February 15, 2008

Former Lower Township cop fired for sex on duty drops bid to get job back

The Press of Atlantic City - Published: Friday, February 15, 2008

ATLANTIC CITY - A former Lower Township police officer caught in a love triangle of sorts and then fired for having sex while on duty has abandoned his quest to get his job back.

Bruce Miller, a patrolman for 12 years before being fired for misconduct in 2006, was scheduled to appear before Administrative Law Judge W. Todd Miller on Thursday morning but dropped his appeal to get his job back.

An often-decorated patrolman, whom Police Chief Ed Donohue called "a good street officer," Miller admitted having sex with Buffi Hinker, a former police secretary and now Miller's wife, and Denise Hennessey, an aide to state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic.

The police said the misconduct went on approximately from 1999 to 2005. The internal report said Miller had sex with Hennessey as many as 40 times, sometimes in his patrol car and at locations around the township that included Bree Zee Lee Marina, Mill Creek Marina, Penn Turbo Aviation, the Millman Center and the parking area at Big Lots. Police said they documented about 15 liaisons, beginning in 2004, with Buffi Hinker, who later became Donohue's secretary. Donohue said the case shows the public that the department will police itself.

"Obviously, I'm very concerned whenever an officer brings the department into disrepute. The continuing egregious on-duty conduct of this officer would not be tolerated. I think the township acted correctly in terminating the officer," Donohue said.

Miller said the sex was while on duty but during breaks. The police dispute this. Township Attorney Paul Baldini said the sex was often much longer than the breaks. Internal charges said it sometimes lasted three hours. Police Capt. Lou Russo said Miller sometimes had others respond to calls when he was having relations. "We're never on break," Russo said. "I think Chief Donohue has set a tone of integrity. The officers understand they are held to a higher level."

Hennessey was set to testify for the township against Miller. Her statement to police alleges she had sex several times with Miller around the township, including inside a recreational vehicle police dubbed "the love shack," which Miller parked near the Lower Township Public Safety Building.

Police also had computer records from Jonathan Hinker, Buffi's ex-husband, that include e-mails between the now-married couple. The former police secretary was subpoenaed but did not show. The township also engaged an expert witness, psychologist Dr. Alvin Krass, to testify that Miller should not get his job back due to authority and self-control issues.

The parties met in a private conference room for about 90 minutes before Miller's attorney, Joseph Rodgers, came to open court and withdrew the appeal. Rodgers blamed the media presence and said Miller wanted to spare his children the negative publicity. "My client arrived and saw the press. He was quite concerned. He has three children and went through a difficult divorce," Rodgers said. "He is simply not going to put his family through this."

Baldini said the complaint was withdrawn "because he can't win" and because any testimony put on the record could have been used against Miller at an upcoming hearing on whether he gets a disability pension.

Miller, who has been injured several times in the line of duty, put in for the disability prior to being fired but after the department issued a "preliminary notice of discipline." Rodgers said the injuries occurred before he was fired. These are issues for the pension board. Hennessey, who handles constituent relations for Van Drew, was visibly upset when she saw the media and tried to avoid having her picture taken.

"We're trying to calm the witness down," said Russo at one point.

Statements made to police by Hennessey and Hinker paint the picture of a love triangle. It may have been more than a triangle. Miller was still married then to ex-wife Kelly and police have looked into another potential lover, a secretary at Penn Turbo Aviation. This is the business next to the Public Safety Building where the recreational vehicle was parked, and where Miller worked part time. Russo said this witness moved out of town and was never located. Miller denies having sex with her.

Miller was fired Oct. 6, 2006, under charges that included misconduct, conduct unbecoming an employee, neglect of duty and misuse of public property. The last charge relates to using a police car to have sex or for transport to a place to have sex.

Miller admitted in an Aug. 7, 2006, statement to superiors he had sex several times per month with Hennessey, usually between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. and often at Penn Turbo in the hangar, an office or his motor home. He said Hennessey drove around the township at night looking for him and he tried several times to end the relationship, but Hennessey threatened to go to his superiors or his wife. Miller said Hennessey contacted his wife on at least three occasions but did not reveal the relationship.

When Miller became estranged from his wife, he said Hennessey, who lived in Wildwood at the time, wanted to move the relationship forward. He said she would call, text his cell phone, and show up at his house uninvited. She ultimately went to the police and signed a complaint against Miller. "She stated she was doing so because her estranged husband would no longer speak to their daughter if she did not," Miller said.

Hennessey was 34 when police interviewed her on Aug. 7, 2006, but said she had known Miller, who was previously in the Coast Guard, since she was 22. Hennessey said relations went from 1999 to October 2005.

"I mean everything sexually happened from A to Z," she said at one point as Detective Sgt. Thomas Keywood interviewed her.

She added other locations to the police list including Miller's boat, Douglass Park, Cold Spring Village, near Menz's Restaurant and the Cape May County Zoo when Miller was in Middle Township for a class.

Keywood said, "Wow, you really know the town." Hennessey replied, "I've been around a lot."

Hennessey said she came forward because Miller was saying she forced him to have sex with her for five years. She told Keywood he was "a schmuck." Miller admitted having sex with Hinker beginning in 2004 but said she was not working for the department during this time.

Keywood interviewed Hinker on Aug. 11, 2006. She admitted having relations with Miller less than 10 times but said sexual intercourse was "maybe once or twice." Hinker said it was during Miller's breaks and would last 15 to 20 minutes. She said she felt "more than a little coerced" to give a statement after Township Manager Kathy McPherson said her job was in jeopardy.

Hinker said Hennessey began running into her, giving her dirty looks and threatening her through Miller, at one point telling him she would "set me on fire" or find someone to "set me on fire." She said Miller got constant phone calls from Hennessey when she was with him. Hinker said she believed Hennessey went to police because Miller ended up with her. Hennessey declined comment. Rodgers claimed she is "just a pawn" in the case.

To e-mail Richard Degener at The Press: RDegener@pressofac.com

1 comment:

Bruce Miller is a joke said...

This man is still corrupt, to this day. His life as a disgraced police officer may be over, but, he still creates conflict on the Coast Guard base. He is one of those type of people who try to use others as pawns or puppets. He is arrogant and has many issues. Wherever this man goes, he creates some type of controversy. A disgrace to the Coast Guard in every way! Why he is employed there, with his reputation and past, is beyond me.