HOBOKEN – Among the buzz about Patrick Ricciardi, the suspended City Hall information technology director who was recently arrested by the FBI, observers have noted that he was one of only five city workers in 2009 to get a low-cost affordable unit in a luxury condo building. So how did that happen?
Ricciardi, who earned at least $72,000 last year, received "workforce housing" in the luxurious Metrostop condo building.
Workforce housing is a program to help city employees with modest salaries find affordable living in the city in which they work, so they don't have to move out due to rising home prices. A workforce housing program is often initiated as part of a community giveback by a developer.
While Ricciardi's $72,000 salary does not exceed the maximum amount allowed for workforce housing, blog reports have stated that Ricciardi pulled in over $150,000 annually stemming from overtime duties. The eligibility for the workforce housing program depends on how many people are in a family, and a net worth of combined assets, according to the developer's workforce housing manual. Ricciardi filmed council meetings that sometimes stretched past midnight. However, it is difficult to tell which of Ricciardi's income and assets were included, as certain expenses might have counted against his income as well.
Ricciardi was arrested in early November by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on charges that he allegedly intercepted emails meant for Mayor Dawn Zimmer since early 2010, according to the criminal complaint.
City Spokesman Juan Melli said that the workforce housing process, including who was selected to purchase the housing, was handled externally by ExecuTech, an outside firm. The City Council voted to award a contract to the company some time after the Metrostop developers agreed to save five of their units for workforce housing.
Melli said that in 2008, 51 people applied for a chance to grab one of the luxury condos at a reduced rate.
A housing unit through the program would cost a city employee approximately $253,500, according to a workforce housing manual. The market rate of an apartment is near $500,000, according to the manual.
The eligibility based on a candidate’s combined assets is capped at $178,808 for a six-person family.
The manual outlines strict requirements for vetting applicants. Multiple items can be considered “income."
The contractor entered the qualified applicants into a lottery system, Melli said. They were then randomly ranked, and the affordable housing was offered first to the top five randomly generated people. Melli said that ultimately all of the people on the list were offered housing, because not everyone decided to buy. Only three units were purchased in 2008.
An Open Public Records Act filed by The Reporter requesting salaries of municipal employees shows that Ricciardi’s base salary was $72,121.92 this year. Ricciardi was suspended from his job without pay in May. Another OPRA response shows that despite being suspended since May, Ricciardi was given $3,170.31 between June 1 and Oct. 24. Of his total pay during that June to October period, approximately 56 percent of his salary was marked as overtime pay.
However, the list of annual salaries provided through the OPRA response did not list overtime pay totals.
A FBI criminal complaint states that Ricciardi confessed on May 25 to allegedly setting up an “archive file” that would intercept Zimmer’s emails. On May 26, FBI agents raided City Hall. Ricciardi appeared in federal court in Newark on Nov. 9 to be read his charges. He has not yet entered a plea.
Ricciardi was charged with accessing a computer without authorization, interception of wire and electronic communication, and disclosure of intercepted wire and electronic communications. He faces a potential maximum jail sentence of five years for each count if convicted. - Ray Smith