Former Department of Public Works Superintendent James Wiley pled guilty on Tuesday, Sept. 11 to using North Bergen town employees for his household chores, personal projects at his home, and campaign work while the township paid them.
According to a press release from state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, Wiley has been superintendent of the DPW for 17 years, since 1995, and had a salary of approximately $122,000 per year before his resignation on Aug. 31.
“Wiley’s abuse of power in exploiting municipal employees for his personal chores and home improvement projects is an affront to every honest taxpayer and worker,” said Chiesa in the press release. “It takes hard work and hard-earned money for the average person to maintain a home, but Wiley, in his greed, decided to do it on the taxpayers’ dime. Beyond that, he participated in the unlawful assignment of public workers to political activities. We won’t stand for such corruption.”
Wiley is now permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
“I feel very badly that North Bergen has to get the stigma of corruption when workers do their job and keep the town in good shape.” – Mayor Nicholas Sacco
The chores included housecleaning, window washing, pool maintenance, cleaning Wiley’s gas grill, clearing leaves, removing snow, and running to the store for household supplies. The special projects included putting up Christmas decorations, helping to build and paint an addition to the home, and installing pavers along with a hot tub.
The press release states that in order to cover up the work that was done illegally false, timesheets listing “yard maintenance” were submitted at the DPW complex.
114 hours of overtime on home
According to the press release, the investigation revealed that between January 2008 and January 2012, Wiley signed and submitted fraudulent timesheets that paid employees for 274 hours of labor which included 114 hours of overtime spent working on his home.
Wiley must pay restitution to the township based on the amount of wages that the municipal workers were paid while working at his home.
“We are very surprised and saddened by the actions of the Township’s former DPW Superintendent and very angry that taxpayer money could have been misspent for personal gain or political reasons,” said Paul Swibinski, spokesman for Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the town, last week.
Sacco said, “I feel very badly that North Bergen has to get the stigma of corruption when in fact workers do their job and keep the town in good shape. Our Public Works department is probably the best in the country. Now we have to scramble to put it together again and we’ll do that, we’ll have it ready for the winter.”
Swibinski said he believes these types of acts were confined to the DPW and said the town is making sure of that. He also said DPW employees will receive ethics training to ensure they know to disregard any unethical orders and report them.
“The township has fully cooperated with this investigation from the start and will continue to do so until it concludes,” he said.
According to the press release, Wiley admitted to having used DPW employees on three occasions to work on political campaigns in Jersey City, Bayonne, and Hudson County in general. The tasks included canvassing neighborhoods, distributing campaign literature, and posting campaign signs.
According to the press release, these tasks took place on Nov. 4, 2008, when 15 DPW workers provided 60 hours of overtime labor in Bayonne in connection with the mayoral campaign; May 12, 2009, when 26 DPW workers provided 26 hours of overtime labor in Jersey City that were connected with a mayoral campaign; and Nov. 2, 2012, when numerous DPW workers provided overtime labor in connection with a campaign for sheriff.
The press release indicated that the state is continuing to investigate DPW employees working for campaigns.
Swibinski said the DPW will be reorganized by Public Works Commissioner Frank Gargiulo and Township Administrator Chris Pianese, who addressed the entire department on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
Sentencing and other suspects
According to the press release, Wiley pled guilty in Superior Court in Hudson County to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. As part of the plea agreement, Wiley will be sentenced five to ten years in state prison, the standard for second-degree crimes.
The press release said Wiley claimed that two supervisors helped him submit the fraudulent timesheets. Both men have worked for the DPW since the 1990s and were suspended with pay on Tuesday. If they are charged, the town will suspend them without pay.
The press release said that the attorney general’s office expects to file additional charges.
Wiley will be sentenced on Oct. 26.
The Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline, 1-866-847-7425 or 1-866-TIPS-4CJ so the public can report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. You can also visit www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org