BEYOND BERGEN: Jurors in Jersey City today convicted two North Bergen public works employees of assigning municipal employees to work on election campaigns and to complete personal chores or projects for them or their boss, Supt. James Wiley.
Troy Bunero, 48, of North Bergen ( above, left ), and Francis “Frank” Longo, 49, of Ridgefield Park ( above, right ), were found guilty of second-degree charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct, as well as third-degree charges of theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of government property following a seven-week trial.
Jurors also convicted Bunero of third-degree tampering with public records and fourth-degree falsifying records for submitting false timesheets.
State law requires both to forfeit their jobs and never be employed publicly again.
“North Bergen residents don’t pay property taxes so that supervisors like Bunero and Longo can treat municipal employees like their personal handymen or like campaign workers to help them curry political favor,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
“The defense portrayed Bunero and Longo as little guys who just passed on orders from their boss, but that didn’t square with the fact that the orders included renovating Bunero’s home and painting Longo’s truck,” added Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.
Wiley, 69, admitted in September 2012 that he directed municipal employees to perform hundreds of hours of work at his home, doing housecleaning, yard work and special projects, all while being paid by the township. He also admitted assigning township employees to work on election campaigns.
He’s still awaiting sentencing.
Deputy Attorneys General Victor Salgado and Julia Zukina tried the case leading to today’s verdict.
A judge set their sentencing for Sept. 18.
As supervisors for the township Department of Public Works, Bunero and Longo “served under Wiley and were responsible for assigning workers for their shifts,” Hoffman said.
“Bunero was responsible for timekeeping and supervising street sweepers and trash pickup,” he added. “Longo was responsible for supervising crews that did road repair and construction work.”
Both men “worked on election campaigns personally while being paid by the township and also helped assign subordinate employees to work on campaigns,” Hoffman said.
The workers canvassed neighborhoods, distributed campaign literature and posted signs — using DPW vehicles, tools and equipment, he said.
They were convicted in connection with three specific days when DPW employees worked on campaigns:
(1) Nov. 4, 2008, in connection with a mayoral campaign in Bayonne;
(2) May 12, 2009, in connection with a mayoral campaign in Jersey City;
(3) Nov. 2, 2010, in Jersey City, in connection with a campaign for sheriff.
They also were convicted of “assigning DPW workers to go to Wiley’s home in North Bergen to do household chores or projects while the workers were on duty or being paid overtime by the township,” Hoffman said.
“Each man also made use of on-the-clock DPW workers for their own personal projects, including renovations at Bunero’s home and the repainting of Longo’s pickup truck, which was done in the DPW garage,” he said.
“The two men performed work themselves on these projects while being paid by the township,” the attorney general said. “In addition, Longo was convicted of a third count of official misconduct for assigning workers to repair the parking lot of a commercial property.”
Bunero was charged with “submitting fraudulent timesheets related to his own hours and the hours of subordinate employees to cover up the unlawful work done on campaigns and on personal projects,” he said.
Bunero worked for North Bergen since 1998, reaching an annual salary of $69,000. Longo worked for the township since 1993 and was making $79,000 a year when he and Bunero were suspended without pay following their September 2012 indictments.F
IMAGES: Courtesy NJ ATTORNEY GENERAL
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