Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that two supervisors for the North Bergen Township Department of Public Works, Troy Bunero and Francis “Frank” Longo, were indicted today for assigning municipal employees to work on election campaigns and to complete personal chores or projects for their boss, Superintendent James Wiley, or for their own benefit.
Wiley pleaded guilty on Sept. 11 to conspiracy to commit official misconduct, admitting that he directed municipal employees to perform hundreds of hours of work at his home, doing housecleaning, yard work and special projects, all while being paid by the township. He faces five to 10 years in prison under his plea agreement and must repay the township. He also admitted assigning township employees to work on election campaigns. The charges against Wiley, Bunero and Longo stem from an ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Bunero, 46, of North Bergen, and Longo, 47, of Ridgefield Park, were each charged in an eight-count state grand jury indictment, which was handed up in court today, with conspiracy (2nd degree), two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), pattern of official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by unlawful taking (3rd degree), and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government (3rd degree). Bunero alone was also charged with tampering with public records or information (3rd degree) and falsifying records or information (4th degree). The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum of five years without parole on the official misconduct charges and a consecutive mandatory minimum sentence of five years without parole on the pattern of official misconduct charge.
“We allege that these defendants, like Wiley, were part of a corrupt operation in which public works employees were regularly deployed for political work or to serve as personal handymen for their bosses, all while being paid by the township,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “We’re working to root out this type of abuse of power and taxpayer funds in North Bergen and throughout New Jersey.”
“Information from local residents and workers who are tired of the corruption has been crucial to the progress of our ongoing investigation,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about misconduct by public officials anywhere in New Jersey to contact us confidentially so that we can take action.”
As supervisors for the Department of Public Works (DPW), Bunero and Longo served under Wiley and were responsible for assigning workers for their shifts. Bunero was responsible for timekeeping and supervising street sweepers and trash pickup. Longo was responsible for supervising crews that did road repair and construction work. It is alleged that Bunero and Longo worked on election campaigns personally while being paid by the township, and also, in their roles as supervisors, helped assign subordinate employees to work on election campaigns. They are charged with one count of official misconduct in connection with that conduct. They are charged in connection with the same three days of campaign work for which Wiley admitted assigning workers.
Wiley admitted signing and submitting fraudulent paperwork to have DPW workers paid for overtime labor that they provided on (1) Nov. 4, 2008, in connection with a mayoral campaign in Bayonne; (2) May 12, 2009, in connection with a mayoral campaign in Jersey City; and (3) Nov. 2, 2010, in Jersey City, in connection with a campaign for sheriff. The workers engaged in activities such as canvassing neighborhoods, distributing campaign literature, and posting campaign signs.
North Bergen spokesman Paul Swibinski issued a statement.
“Public Works Commissioner Frank Gargiulo is suspending Frank Longo and Troy Bunero without pay, effective immediately, in accordance with township policy,” Swibinski said. “Commissioner Gargiulo continues to focus on reorganizing the Public Works Department with new leadership and better training practices. These indictments were anticipated since both employees were named by the former DPW Superintendent during his guilty plea on September 11. The Township has been fully cooperating with the state investigation and will continue to do so. The Township has estimated that improper work done by DPW employees cost taxpayers an estimated $15,000 and we are determined to recover those costs.”
Bunero and Longo are charged with a second count of official misconduct for allegedly assigning DPW workers to go to Wiley’s home on Heindel Avenue in North Bergen to do household chores or projects while the workers were on duty or being paid overtime by the township. It is further alleged in that count that each man also made use of on-the-clock DPW workers for their own personal projects, including renovations completed at Bunero’s home and the repainting of a pickup truck owned by Longo, which was done in the DPW garage. The two men also allegedly performed work themselves on these projects while being paid by the township. The conduct allegedly occurred between January 2006 and February 2012.
According to the charges, the employees assigned to work election campaigns or at personal residences typically went to the sites using DPW vehicles, and they used tools and equipment belonging to the department. Bunero and Longo are charged with the counts of theft and misapplication of government property for their alleged role in the unlawful use of tools, equipment, vehicles and employee services for the election campaigns and for personal work for Wiley and for themselves. In the two counts related to tampering with or falsifying records, Bunero is charged with submitting fraudulent timesheets related to his own hours and the hours of subordinate employees to cover up the unlawful work done on campaigns and on personal chores or projects.
Bunero has worked for North Bergen since 1998 and currently earns an annual salary of approximately $69,000. Longo has worked for North Bergen since 1993 and currently earns an annual salary of approximately $79,000.
Deputy Attorneys General David M. Fritch and Cynthia M. Vazquez presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The investigation, which is ongoing, is being conducted by Detective Garrett Brown, Investigator Joseph C. Salvatore, Lt. Robert Stemmer and Deputy Attorneys General Fritch and Vazquez.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000. The official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned it to Hudson County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear at a later date for arraignment on the charges.