Since former North Bergen Department of Public Works Superintendent James Wiley pleaded guilty two weeks ago to using town employees for his household chores, construction projects at his home, and political campaign work in nearby towns, residents have asked questions about what will happen now to the DPW.
“The most important thing is that the department will be reorganized and new leadership will be brought in to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again,” said town spokesman Paul
Swibinski recently. In addition, Mayor Nicholas Sacco and other officials discussed the matter at the Wednesday, Sept. 12 commissioners meeting.
Reorganization and new leadership for DPW
At the Wednesday commissioners’ meeting, which took place the same day Wiley was arrested, Sacco and Commissioner Frank Garguilo read statements related to the controversy, because they expected questions from members of the public.
According to media reports, Wiley said he was following orders from higher-ups when he asked his employees to do campaign work for political candidates in other towns. Wiley did not say who gave him the orders, according to the information released so far.
In Sacco’s written statement, he said, “No one had any knowledge or any indication of any illegal activities taking place in the Department of Public Works. To see the public trust violated in this manner, for any reason, is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. As elected officials, we have a responsibility to protect taxpayers and make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.”
“It is now clear that we must reorganize our department.” - Commissioner Frank Gargiulo
“As the commissioner of the Department of Public Works, it is my responsibility to see that our department operates efficiently and in a cost effective manner,” he said. “I have always been proud of our department and the excellent job that we do in maintaining safe, clean streets, and in particular in our highly regarded snow removal program. However, it is now clear that we must reorganize our department with new leadership, better training, and new safeguards to protect taxpayers and restore the trust of the public. This process has already begun and is continuing.”
The employees used by Wiley were being paid by the township while they performed Wiley’s chores, and sometimes even earned time and a half for weekend work.
In response to the written statements, attorney Mario Blanch, who has represented Sacco’s political opponents, addressed the commissioners and mayor at the meeting.
“Wiley said he was ordered to send campaign workers to other municipalities,” said Blanch. “What strikes me is that Wiley receives absolutely no benefit by sending workers to other municipalities but [the mayor does]. I think the reorganization needs to start with the five of you. I think the DPW needs to be reorganized by removing you [Gargiulo] as commissioner of DPW. The five of you did not even know what was happening in your own back yard.”
Blanch said he could not understand how Commissioner Gargiulo was proud of the DPW after what happened.
According to Swibinski, the town is going to attempt to seek restitution from Wiley. Town Administrator Chris Pianese has calculated that the man hours used for Wiley’s home were under $15,000 for roughly 274 hours.
Swibinski said that when the town realized that Wiley would be charged for a crime, they notified Wiley’s legal team that they would no longer pay fees for attorneys who were dealing with the investigation.
“We do not want to provide legal representation for people who commit crimes,” said Swibinski.
Wiley has accumulated approximately $70,000 in accumulated sick and vacation days along with compensatory time. The township is working with the state Attorney General’s Office to determine how much they can deduct from the $70,000 for compensation.
An ordinance was introduced for LWH to build 293 residential units on vacant land at 7601 River Road. This project area is part of a redevelopment area. The town has also proposed a 30-year financial agreement with the developer, in lieu of taxes.
The commissioners approved a resolution to enter a grant contract with the New Jersey Department of Transportation for the improvements of various streets.
A resolution was authorized for a one-year agreement with Total Waster Services, Inc. which operates a solid waste transfer station at 23-31 94 street.
A contract was awarded to Packetalk, LLC for software and hardware maintenance service to the town’s CCTV system. Packetalk, LLC will be be paid up to $152,484 for one year that began on Sept. 1 and ends Aug. 31, 2013.
Stan’s Sport Center, Inc. was awarded a contract for two years of sporting goods and athletic equipment. They were the only bidder for a total of $238,887.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org