Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ scandal involving public works employees doing jobs at his home and nephew’s liquor store grew bigger on Thursday evening with further evidence of workers handling the tasks while on taxpayers’ dime.
March 16, 2015
The new broadcast which aired on NBC New York shows public works carpenter Jorge Makdissi several times at an East 15th Street warehouse owned by the mayor’s nephew. He is seen carrying tools, loading boards, and handling other tasks at the location.
Makdissi billed taxpayers six hours of overtime for working at the private property. The report states he billed the city on March 16th, 2015 beginning 4 p.m. for six hours.
Public works supervisor Joseph Mania also appears on the same video. He also billed taxpayers six hours of overtime from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to the report. A third employee was also caught on tape at the work site.
Tim Hanlon is caught on video at 5:46 p.m. He too billed the city for six hours from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to the report.
He and other workers used city equipment like vehicles while working on the construction site. At times they were clad in public works uniform while doing private work for the mayor.
December 6, 2015
Hanlon is caught at the site again on December 6th, 2015. He is seen holding a bottle at the private property. He billed taxpayers for seven hours of work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to the report.
Torres is seen arriving at the scene riding the city issued Chevy Suburban several times. He walks around the construction site while employees are seen working. In one instance, he brings bags of beer for the worker at the site.
Makdissi, Mania, and Hanlon have denied any wrongdoing.
Torres at first denied allegations public works employees worked at his home last year, but then admitted some of them built a bookshelf for his daughter for which he paid out of his pocket.
Torres could not be reached for comments on Thursday evening.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has convened a grand jury to investigate the allegation involving public works employees and the mayor. Authorities have subpoenaed documents and workers to testify before the grand jury.
Private investigator Harry Melber who was hired by a developer involved in a permit dispute with the city was also subpoenaed for video tapes.
“As you know, our policy is that we neither confirm nor deny the status or existence of investigations,” said Peter Aseltine, spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, when asked about the investigation.
Council president William McKoy reserved commenting on the matter on Thursday evening.
Councilman Andre Sayegh has called for a committee of the whole investigation into the scandal. “Sounds like another devastating blow to taxpayers,” he said. “I feel badly for taxpayers who see their taxes rise every year.”
Torres at one point blamed Sayegh for the scandal that has engulfed his administration over the past three months. Some have even called on the mayor to resign.
A petition is being circulated on social media seeking the mayor’s ouster over the allegations.
Torres is presumably raising money for a legal fund, according to sources. He held a fund raising golf event in Sussex County on Monday through his company Urban Solutions LLC.
It’s not clear how much money Torres raised through the fundraiser.
This report was last updated on June 9th, 2016 at 10:10 p.m.