North Bergen DPW supers convicted of official misconduct

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that two suspended supervisors for the North Bergen Township Department of Public Works were convicted at trial today of official misconduct and other charges for assigning municipal employees to work on election campaigns and to complete personal chores or projects for them or their boss, Superintendent James Wiley.

Troy Bunero, 48, of North Bergen, and Francis “Frank” Longo, 49, of Ridgefield Park, were convicted by a Hudson County jury of second-degree charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct, as well as third-degree charges of theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of government property.  In addition, Bunero was convicted of third-degree tampering with public records and fourth-degree falsifying records for submitting false timesheets.  The verdict followed a seven-week trial before Superior Court Judge Paul M. DePascale.

Deputy Attorneys General Victor Salgado and Julia Zukina tried the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.  The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of five years without parole on the official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct charges.  Bunero and Longo are required by law to forfeit their jobs and will be permanently barred from public employment.  Their sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 18.

James Wiley, 69, the former superintendent of the North Bergen Department of Public Works, pleaded guilty on Sept. 11, 2012 to conspiracy to commit official misconduct, admitting 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 also admitted assigning township employees to work on election campaigns.  Wiley is awaiting sentencing.  He faces five to 10 years in state prison and must repay the township.

“North Bergen residents don’t pay property taxes so that supervisors like Bunero and Longo can treat municipal employees like their personal handymen or like campaign workers to help them curry political favor,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By sending these men to prison, along with their boss, James Wiley, we send a powerful message that we will not tolerate public officials who abuse their authority and the public resources entrusted to them.”

“The defense portrayed Bunero and Longo as little guys who just passed on orders from their boss, but that didn’t square with the fact that the orders included renovating Bunero’s home and painting Longo’s truck,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our trial team skillfully laid out the facts of this case so that the jurors, to their credit, could discern the truth: that these two men eagerly exploited their supervisory positions and the workers under them for their personal gain.”

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.  The criminal conduct occurred between January 2006 and February 2012.

Bunero and Longo were convicted of one count of official misconduct related to political campaign work.  The state presented testimony and evidence that they worked on election campaigns personally while being paid by the township and also helped assign subordinate employees to work on campaigns.  They were convicted in connection with three days when DPW employees engaged in campaign work: (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.  In pleading guilty, Wiley admitted signing and submitting fraudulent paperwork to have DPW workers paid for overtime labor that they provided on those days.  The workers engaged in activities such as canvassing neighborhoods, distributing campaign literature and posting signs.

Bunero and Longo were convicted of a second count of official misconduct for assigning DPW workers to go to Wiley’s home in North Bergen to do household chores or projects while the workers were on duty or being paid overtime by the township.  Each man also made use of on-the-clock DPW workers for their own personal projects, including renovations at Bunero’s home and the repainting of Longo’s pickup truck, which was done in the DPW garage.  The two men performed work themselves on these projects while being paid by the township.  In addition, Longo was convicted of a third count of official misconduct for assigning workers to repair the parking lot of a commercial property.

The township 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 were convicted of theft and misapplication of government property for their role in the unlawful use of tools, equipment, vehicles and employee services for the election campaigns and for personal work for Wiley and themselves. In the counts related to tampering with and falsifying records, Bunero was 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 projects.

Bunero has worked for North Bergen since 1998 and earned an annual salary of approximately $69,000.  Longo has worked for North Bergen since 1993 and earned an annual salary of approximately $79,000.  Both men were suspended without pay after they were indicted in September 2012.

Deputy Attorneys General Salgado and Zukina were assisted at trial by the lead investigators, Detective Garrett Brown, Investigator Joseph C. Salvatore and Lt. Robert Stemmer, as well as Analyst Kathy Ratliff, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Chief of the Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis, Deputy Bureau Chief.  Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Mongiello, Assistant Attorney General Carol Henderson and Bureau Chief Daniel Bornstein of the Appellate Bureau assisted with many legal issues and an emergent appeal related to the trial.  Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Vazquez and former Deputy Attorney General David Fritch assisted in the investigation and presented the case to the state grand jury. Assistant Attorney General Christine Hoffman, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, helped supervise the investigation.

North Bergen DPW supers convicted of official misconduct