Officials have identified borough resident Joseph Dinella as the man who allegedly came into possession of a plaque—commemorating Collingswood native and famed Little House on the Prairie actor Michael Landon—and brought it to The Retrospect's office.
Dinella, who has been known to publicly tussle with Mayor James Maley over borough issues, has been questioned by police over the incident.
At first, the plaque's removal just caused an mild uproar, with some residents criticizing the town's decision to remove the piece—which the borough deemed a safety hazard due to its stone marker sitting near playground equipement.
Under borough direction, the plaque was reportedly removed from Knight Park during a townwide park cleanup on Nov. 5, and stored at Collingswood Public Works Department until its future plot could be chosen.
As the uproar grew—and the story garnered national attention—the law got involved. Police launched an investigation this week to determine why the plaque ended up in the hands of a resident.
"The plaque was in a weird spot in the Knight Park. (The borough's) intention was to take it out, leave it (with public works) on Champion Ave. while we figured out where to permanently put it, and then return it to the Knight Park in the springtime,” said Collingswood Communications Director Cass Duffey.
Whoever took the plaque had to remove it from the stone base, Maley told Patch earlier.
According to reports, Dinella allegedly discovered the plaque on his front porch, and later brought it to The Retrospect.
Dinella declined to comment on how he came to possess the memorial.
"For today there is no comment," said Dinella. "I'd like to talk to my attorney first."
According to Dinella, a meeting with his lawyer was scheduled for later this afternoon—Thursday, Jan. 5. When asked for the name of his attorney, Dinella said, "I'm going to withhold that information until I actually meet with my lawyer."
Collingswood Mayor James Maley spoke about Dinella's choice not to comment on Thursday afternoon.
"My only comment is that it should be reported," said Maley of Dinella declining comment. "People need to understand what all this is about."
According to Maley, a radio station called his home early Thursday morning, and allegedly made derogatory comments about his family on-air.
"And this is all (happening) because Joe Dinella found a plaque on his front porch," said Maley. "The story makes no sense. And all the furor that's making Collingswood look bad is really intended—by him (Dinella)—to make me look bad. It's a shame."
Maley and Dinella have a long-standing history of entering heated debates during the public portion of monthly commission meetings.
"The Retrospect didn't (initially) report that it was Dinella," said Maley of the newspaper's original story, which only identified a resident as having dropped off the plaque. "I think the fact that it was him (Dinella) changes everything.
"Joe says he found (the plaque) on his porch," said Maley. "My question is, 'Well, then why didn't you call the cops?'"
As for the plaque, it's back in the borough's possession. Duffey said she picked it up from The Retrospect offices, so that borough officials could use it to film various television spots.