Two city employees are alleging there’s widespread abuse of taxpayers’ funds at the Department of Public Works, according to a news report which aired on WNBC on Monday evening.
In some instances supervisors are allegedly assigning employees to do private jobs while on city time, said the two workers.
Some employees are not reporting to work, but are earning pay, alleged the employees. City equipment are being utilized for non-municipal work, according to the two public works employees who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
“You consider it stealing?” asked the investigative reporter to one of the employees.
“Absolutely,” responded the city employee. “I’m quite sure that’s not what the taxpayers are paying for.”
The employees said many workers are shirking their duties, whether cleaning up after a parade, removing snow, or working on municipal projects. That’s those who report to work, the two employees alleged, there are some who do not show up to work at all.
“You got someone getting paid for doing something they didn’t do,” said a second public works employee. “I know for a fact that individual didn’t show up for a whole week.”
City trucks are allegedly utilized on private construction projects to transport and dump materials in city yards, according to one of the employees.
“This is hideous,” said Maritza Davila, chairwoman of the council’s public works committee, who watched the Monday evening broadcast. “These are things that are not allowed.”
Davila said she is waiting to see what comes of the New Jersey Attorney General’s investigation into the allegations.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is being investigated by authorities for allegedly using public works employees to do work on his home. Public works employees were recorded doing various odd jobs at the mayor’s home over a one-year period. Public works employees were video taped moving a large beer cooler into the mayor’s home, washing his car, removing debris from his house, and helping him move boxes out of storage.
The state has served subpoenas to the private investigator who recorded the tapes of employees working at the mayor’s home.
The city has been served with subpoenas to turn over records; employees in record keeping and collecting roles have been summoned to appear before a grand jury next week, according to municipal officials.
The two employees also said the overtime problem at the public works department is driven by a small number of employees connected to the mayor. There’s a clique, allies of the mayor, who are earning most of the overtime, alleged one employee. A number of public works employees doubled their salaries by working overtime, according to city data.
“This is a severe problem and it needs to be investigated,” wrote Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on Monday, urging the state to work with the council to investigate excessive overtime expenditures at the department.
Public works director Manuel Ojeda could not be reached for comments on Monday evening.
The two public works employees said there is no recourse to correct the issues by bringing them up with superiors. “There’s not much you can do,” said one of the works. “Who you’re you going to tell? The guys who run it are the guys who are doing everything.”
Torres could not be reached for comments for this report.