The corruption trial of two North Bergen public works supervisors has revealed a clear pattern of abuse of power in the department.
Attorneys called the last witness on Tuesday in the trial of Troy Bunero and Francis Longo, two now-suspended supervisors in the North Bergen Department of Public Works. The men are accused of ordering employees to perform personal chores and work on political campaigns in other municipalities while on township time.
The incidents in question were alleged to have taken place between January 2006 and February 2012, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which brought the charges against the two men.
At the time, both men reported to James Wiley. Wiley was indicted on similar charges on Sept. 11, 2012.
Wiley agreed to a plea deal with the state, and subsequently served as the key witness against Bunero and Longo in the current trial. The two men were suspended after being indicted on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct, a pattern of official misconduct, theft, and misuse of government property.
Bunero faces additional charges of tampering with and falsifying public records or information, since he was responsible for signing time sheets.
The two men did not take the stand. Closing arguments were expected to begin this coming Tuesday.
A history of misconduct
The Attorney General’s Office initially accused Wiley of allegedly submitting paperwork for 274 hours of DPW employee time, including 114 hours of overtime, for work done on Wiley’s personal residence.
He was also accused of allegedly submitting paperwork for the township to pay DPW employees for hours when they were sent to work on political campaigns in Bayonne in 2008 and in Jersey City in 2009 and 2010.
Wiley pleaded guilty in 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit official misconduct, and agreed to cooperate with the attorney general. As a key witness in the trial against Bunero and Longo, he alleged that the two men willingly participated in the scheme to have workers conduct non-work related business on township time.
DPW workers were allegedly instructed to paint officials’ private homes, fix personal vehicles, and work on political campaigns.
“It was part of the procedure in the DPW,” he testified during the trial. “In fact, the first time I went out, I had Frank Longo with me, who also educated me a little bit on how it works.”
How it worked, said Wiley, was that allegedly “I got my orders from Timothy Grossi. He handed it down to me, then I handed it down to the supervisors,” meaning Bunero and Longo.
Grossi is scheduled to go to trial in September for misconduct charges.
Utilizing DPW workers for personal business
“I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I had men work at my house,” admitted Wiley on the stand. He also admitted to having DPW workers paint the house of his son, Czar Wiley, a football coach in North Bergen and the vice principal of McKinley School.
In addition, he sent workers to West New York to paint the office of another son, Count Wiley, who was a commissioner there, but claimed it was a legitimate use of municipal workers under a shared services contract.
Under questioning by attorneys, James Wiley said, “There’s no written agreement, but there is a verbal agreement.”
Neither son has been charged in connection with these incidents. Count Wiley ran for mayor of West New York this past May, but lost.
During the trial, the district attorney claimed that DPW workers were allegedly told to renovate Bunero’s home and to paint Longo’s truck while on township time.
Witnesses spoke of a larger pattern of administrative abuse in the DPW, with employees in the garage being told to work on personal vehicles including one belonging to relatives of a township commissioner.
Attorneys for the Longo and Bunero depicted Wiley as a tyrannical, foul-mouthed boss who intimidated his employees and threatened their jobs if they disobeyed orders.
Wiley, on the other hand, painted a different picture of the DPW, saying, “This was a very bad crew… One time I had a guy stick a gun in my face. Drug addicts all over the place. Thieves. They used to steal everything that wasn’t nailed down.”
Longo, he claimed, was given the role of supervisor because Wiley needed someone “that could stand up to these people.”
Wiley wore a wire
During the trial it was revealed that Wiley wore a wire while attending Bruins games in North Bergen and even at a function at Vainieri’s Funeral Home in February 2015. Wiley claimed it was his idea to wear the wire and not the attorney general’s.
“I was gathering information. I did not wear the wire to trap anyone,” he stated, going on to say that “I’m being proactive and I also would like to see the corruption be cleaned up in the Department of Public Works.”
Attorneys for Longo and Bunero depicted Wiley as someone who first bullied his employees into conducting inappropriate services, then turned them in to the authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.