"What do you hear?" the official asked. "Did you hear anything about me? Am I next?"
The reporter was somewhat stunned, because there was never any rumor at all circling about concerning this official and any wrongdoing.
"Do you have anything to worry about?" the reporter asked.
This official may not have anything to be worried about. But that isn't the case involving the rest of the town.
Ever since a federal indictment was handed down two weeks ago against former township administrator Joseph Auriemma on bribery and fraud charges, followed six days later by a guilty plea by former township public safety aide Vincent Zappulla for making fraudulent insurance claims, township officials and employees alike are scurrying about, wondering what's going to happen next.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Clark, the investigation involving corruption throughout the town is "still ongoing and very active."
"We expect to have more activity upcoming," Clark said.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie told reporters at a press briefing two weeks ago, after Zappulla's guilty plea was announced, to "stay tuned," because more indictments were expected to be announced "very soon."
There were hints that there is certainly more to follow, when, in the contents of the indictment provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Auriemma is quoted as saying to an informer, believed to be contractor and long-time friend Leonard Farinola, that "there are too many people involved in this."
The indictment stated that Auriemma told the contractor that during a taped conversation last July.
The anticipation has everyone in the town sitting on pins and needles. Some public officials have already secured the services of outside legal firms, away from town representation, just in case something breaks in the case. Several town employees have received subpoenas to testify in the investigation.
An attorney for 40-year-old Farinola said that an indictment against his client, who is reportedly cooperating with the investigation, is expected soon.
Farinola, who owns Fresco Air Systems, the firm that did $2.7 million worth of heating, air conditioning and construction work for the town over the last nine years, is allegedly the contractor who turned state's evidence and wore a wire to get Auriemma to speak on tape about alleged illegal activity.
Allegedly, a contractor received bribes from Auriemma in exchange for getting town contracts, and may also have helped Zappulla concoct a fraudulent fire insurance claim.
Farinola's attorney, Pasquale Giannetti of Wayne, said last week that he expected the indictment against Farinola to be handed down "any day now."
A source close to the investigation told the North Bergen Reporter in April that Commissioner Peter Perez, who heads the township's Parks and Recreation Department, was being investigated, although Perez has steadfastly denied that he has anything to do with the current probe.
The source also said that the contractor in question apparently did work at several private homes of township officials, although there has been no public declaration of those dealings.
It is not known which officials Farinola could have presented to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office as part of his apparent plea-bargaining deal to secretly audiotape conversations to get evidence for the probe.
Last Wednesday evening, at the regularly scheduled township Board of Commissioners' meeting, Mayor Nicholas Sacco's critics were calling for his resignation concerning alleged corruption in his administration.
Sacco refused to answer the comments from the critics, but said to a reporter that he remains strong in rooting out all corruption.
"Since Day One of this investigation, I have maintained that I am not a target," Sacco said. "But I honestly don't know what's going to happen next. The ball is in the court of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office. They've indicated that other things will happen, so we have to wait and see what will."
Sacco was asked what he has been telling township employees over the last few weeks.
"My feeling is that we all have to continue working and stop worrying about what is going to happen," Sacco said. "I have no idea why anyone would be worried about the investigation. I have confidence that the town is running well, that taxes are stable, that services are being provided. We're all going to come through this in time. We're going to continue to make the lives of people in North Bergen better.
Added Sacco, "It doesn't make sense to sit and worry about it. We have to continue to work hard. The people who are worrying don't have the right focus."
Although Auriemma's case may prove to be corruption involving a public official, Sacco insists that Zappulla's case "was a private matter and had nothing to do with the town."
"Joe [Auriemma] will have his day in court," Sacco said.
He added, "I just hope that our residents continue to have confidence in the way the town is being run and we all let the legal matters clear themselves up in court or in other ways."