Rowan feels he has good reason to bash the township and especially the North Bergen Police Department. He was unceremoniously removed from his position as a police officer for alleged misconduct almost nine years ago, a move that the 42-year-old Rowan still questions.
"The bottom line is that I lost my job because I was three blocks away from my post at 4 a.m.," Rowan said. "Sure, I have a gripe with the police department, because I feel that I lost my job unfairly. I should have received maybe 30 days' suspension for being off my post. Instead, I was terminated. It didn't make sense to me."
Rowan's saga began in January of 1993, when, assigned to foot patrol at the time, he was picked up in a police vehicle by fellow North Bergen police officer Vincent Sorge, to respond to a call to check on a motorist asleep in the parking lot of a North Bergen shopping center.
Police reports state that the two officers ordered the motorist out of his Corvette, and when they saw the driver of the Corvette was wearing a lot of jewelry, they allegedly decided to take the man's jewelry and money instead of arresting him.
Sorge allegedly struck the man several times, not realizing that the driver of the Corvette was really an undercover New Jersey state police officer conducting a sting against police corruption.
The case against Sorge went to trial first. Sorge was convicted of misconduct and simple assault and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He served about 18 months in prison and was then released.
The charges against Rowan included misconduct because Rowan didn't do anything to stop Sorge from inflicting the beating. But Rowan rejected a deal made by prosecutors. The deal would have allowed him to avoid trial altogether if he agreed to pre-trial intervention, but it would have meant that he would have to quit being a police officer.
Stating all along that he was innocent, Rowan, suspended from the force without pay while charges were pending, decided to stand trial on his own.
In court, Rowan stated that the only reason he didn't try to stop Sorge from beating the Hispanic man in the Corvette was that there was no way he could have physically stopped the much larger Sorge.
In his trial, Rowan was acquitted of all charges. But when he went to reclaim his job, he was told that he had been terminated in 1995 for failing to appear at a disciplinary hearing. The hearing related to older charges that he had been away from his post. Rowan said he had thought those charges were put on hold until the criminal charges were settled.
He filed an appeal to get reinstated to the state Office of Administrative Law, but OAL ruled against Rowan, stating that he had had 75 days after termination to appeal the decision.
"I had no course of action," Rowan said. "After my suspension, I had a tough time finding a job. I always had an interest in computers. With the pending legal problems, I had some time on my hands, so I learned more about computers."
The Web site
"North Bergen believes that they maintain an honest police department," Rowan said last week. "That's untrue, and I know it. There's a lot of misconduct going on. The Web site pulls no punches. I'm basically sharing the information that I receive. When I first started, I didn't mention any names, but it's continued so long that I now include names, dates and pictures."
The site's name also has a very controversial name - one that the township is now going to Hudson County Superior Court to try to block Rowan from continuing to use.
The site is www.northbergenpd.com, which gives people the impression that it's a site with police department information, which in essence, it is - only, not the kind of information that the department would like to have released.
In fact, if you use an Internet search engine like Google, type in "North Bergen Police Department" and click, Rowan's site is the first to appear.
Rowan insists that the name of the site stands for North Bergen Public Domain, and the site does, indeed proclaim that once you log on. It also features a town motto and looks relatively innocent.
But below, the site features a countdown clock of Police Chief Angelo "Buddy" Busacco's time before he is forced to retire by state mandate laws, with days, hours, minutes, and seconds.
The site also features 24-hour broadcasts of the North Bergen Police Department's radio dispatch transmissions.
"We're delivering a service to the members of the community," Rowan said. "There are a lot of people who like listening to the scanner, to hear the police calls, to hear what's going on. Whether the town of North Bergen likes it or not, we're giving the people the opportunity to hear what goes on, and it's been quite an eye-opener to a lot of people."
There are also a host of other items, either written by Rowan or his "several moderators," people who help Rowan run the website. The items are about alleged police misconduct, incidents and other interesting features.
"During the course of the day, there's just too much to follow alone," Rowan said.
Some of what is on the site is 100 percent accurate. Other posts are racy or vicious personal attacks.
Rowan has good sources who he says give him information. "There are members of the department from all ranks, officers, lieutenants, detectives and sergeants that still give me information," Rowan said. "They have concern about the department and they keep me informed. It's almost like I'm still right in the walls of the department."
Rowan claims he deletes the personal attacks. However, some of the attacks are right on the initial pages of the site.
"If we find things are too harsh, we delete them," Rowan said. "We review the site during the course of the day."
But there are some town officials who think otherwise, like Busacco - who draws much personal abuse on the site.
'Getting back at us'
"When he attacks me, it really doesn't bother me, because I know what he's about," Busacco said. "At the end of the day, when he's done pushing a broom or playing with his computer, the rest of the police force is collecting a paycheck and someday will collect a pension. This is his way of thinking he's getting back at us and our department."
But the township is not pleased with the use of the name NorthBergenPD.com. Last month, they filed a lawsuit against Rowan, saying the use of the name misleads the public and that the site has a "misappropriation of township logos and mottoes."
The suit also contends that broadcasting the police dispatches on the website is a threat to homeland security. In the suit, introduced last month before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli, it states that the broadcast of "unauthorized and illegal rebroadcasts interfere with local, state and federal law enforcement efforts, including those of the Department of Homeland Security and facilitate the commission of crimes and terrorist acts."
Rowan said he believes the lawsuit about the site's name to be "nothing more than a bunch of baloney." He said that he made an offer to the township that he would drop the name of his site in return for them agreeing to pay his legal fees from when he stood trial on the assault and misconduct charges. He also offered to sell the naming rights to the site to the township for $325,000, a deal that the township would not agree to.
"I'd be willing to sign over the ownership and stay off the computer if they pay my legal bills, which they should have done, since I was active member of the police force," Rowan said.
Township attorney Herb Klitzner, who is also viciously attacked and called hideous names on the website, thinks the case is plain and simple.
"He shouldn't be using North Bergen's identity for his website," Klitzner said. "The content is irrelative. He's operating this website under the guise of the North Bergen Police Department and that's wrong. If he wants to keep the content of the site, that's fine. He can do whatever he wants, but not under the guise of the North Bergen Police Department. As far as the township is concerned, it's the township's identity."
The case initially went in front of Gallipoli last month. Gallipoli denied North Bergen's request for an immediate restraining order that would have temporarily shut down Rowan's site. The case is still in the discovery phase and a trial date has not been set.
As far as what Rowan has written on his site being libelous, Klitzner said that libel law was written long before the Internet was invented.
"There are some issues with the law," Klitzner said. "Ten, 15 years ago, you didn't have cases like this. It raises all kinds of legal issues and we don't have an [abundance] of laws to guide us. Of course, you can't slander or libel a public entity, but some of the things on [the website] would have personal cases of action in that matter. There are a lot of gray areas involving Internet content. But the content of the site isn't what concerns us. It's the township's identity at stake, and it doesn't belong on that site."
Rowan was asked about his motivation to continue his attacks.
"I do have a sour taste in my mouth over what happened to me, but I don't think that's my motivation," Rowan said. "I just want to continue the ongoing saga of misconduct in the North Bergen Police Department and the town's government. I can understand why people think I'm bitter. I also can understand why people might think that the site is linked to the police department. But it's just like people going to whitehouse.com and think they're getting something about the president, when it's a porn site."
Rowan would not reveal what he does for a living now, other than it's in the communications field. He also has moved from North Bergen, but still resides in Hudson County.
Look in the mirror
If Gallipoli rules against Rowan using his site's name, Rowan has already established what he calls a "mirror site" called www.northbergeninformer.com. So he's not about to go away soon.
And since the lawsuit was filed last month, the amount of web users frequenting the site has skyrocketed.
"I used to get about 1,000 hits a day," Rowan said. "Now, it's up to 13,000."
The counter on the site proudly states that more than 625,000 visitors have clicked on www.northbergenpd.com since its inception in 1997.
"I had my 15 minutes of fame a long time ago," Rowan said. "I don't consider this a hobby. It's now actually a pain to update it. But people send me information and I post whatever new stories I have. I never thought it would continue this long and grow this much, but it has. And I will continue."