Booker Cracks Down on Corruption in City Hall

Today, Booker oficially announced the arrest of eight city employees for misconduct. Billed as an effort to stamp out corruption in the administration, employees were charged with crimes ranging from stealing gas from city pumps to identity theft. The Mayor announced that this is just the beginning of a massive ethics sweep underway throughout the city capital.

“The vast majority of Newark’s municipal employees do their jobs. Our task is to deal with the small minority that abuse their positions, the public dollar, and the public trust. In this case, these individuals were abusing their power and position, and we moved against them actively and in a professional manner. I am proud of the investigators who worked long hours to pursue and develop these cases, as well as my municipal co-workers that came forward to expose these incidences and assist in our investigation. Most importantly we thank the many co-workers who do an honest day’s job for an honest day’s pay every day,” said Inspector General Wright.

He added that his office has more than 60 other investigations underway, and that additional employees may be arrested in connection with the gas pump thefts. “I live in Newark and raise my kids in Newark,” Inspector General Wright said. “I will not tolerate city workers stealing from me or any other resident, and it will not happen on my watch. But this is the beginning. We will not rest until we end corruption in Newark.”

Click the link below to see the full press release.

Mayor Booker Announces Arrests and Charges Against Eight City Employees for Misconduct and Theft

“Operation Clean Sweep” reveals theft of $65,000 worth of city gasoline, city identities, and charity donations

Mayor Cory A. Booker was joined by Inspector General James Wright and Police Director Garry F. McCarthy at a press conference today to announce that eight Newark municipal employees have been arrested and charged for acts of theft and official misconduct that include illegally pumping city gasoline into private cars and identity theft. All of the individuals are facing grand jury action and trial in Essex County Superior Court, and are on suspension without pay pending the court action.

Addressing the press conference to announce the arrests and actions, Mayor Booker paid tribute to the Inspector General’s Office for its work in investigating these cases, to citizens and municipal workers who provided information and assistance to the investigators, and to “the overwhelming majority of Newark’s municipal workers who are committed to their jobs and to public service. But there are still a few who try to bend and break the law. We have no tolerance for these individuals, and that is why I have created an Office of the Inspector General, to ensure that the poison spread by these misguided individuals does not corrode the spiritual and physical structure of reform, change, and progress the rest of us are building in the City of Newark.”

Details in the cases were given by Inspector General Wright. “Operation Clean Sweep,” was an investigation that cracked an alleged group of five Sanitation and Parks and Grounds workers who used other employees’ gasoline ID cards to fill their private vehicles from municipal pumps at the Newark Street fuel point for nearly 12 months, pouring an estimated 30,000 gallons worth $65,000 into their tanks. Information on the thefts was developed from Inspector General interviews with the suspects, videotapes, and reviews of fuel pump records.

These individuals, Rahman Smalls, Paul Drayton, Michael Payton, Eric Brown, and David Green, are charged with Theft and Official Misconduct. Brown is accused of stealing 15,302 gallons of gas, worth $45,000. Payton is accused of stealing 352 gallons of gas, worth $1,500. Drayton is charged with stealing 384 gallons of gas, while Smalls is accused of stealing 35 gallons. The investigation is ongoing, and Director General Wright noted that the action against these suspects may have saved the City more than $100,000 in payments for gasoline, as well as the actual fuel.

Keona Henderson, a temporary employee with the Department of Child and Family Well-Being stands charged with six counts of Identity Theft and Official Misconduct, for using her position as a secretary in that office to gain access to co-workers’ identities, and then making fraudulent loan applications and purchases from her office computer. Among the identities she tried to steal was that of the Director of Child and Family Well-Being, Maria Vizcarrondo. According to Inspector General Wright, Ms. Henderson confessed her illegal acts.

Jeffrey Bacon of the Division of Traffic and Signals is charged with Official Misconduct and Theft in connection with the theft of a Breast Cancer donations can and its contents from his workplace. This theft was recorded on video, Inspector General Wright said.

Charles Brooks, a Sanitation supervisor and 31-year city employee, is facing action for Official Misconduct, Weapons Possession, and Making Terroristic Threats to a co-worker.

“The vast majority of Newark’s municipal employees do their jobs. Our task is to deal with the small minority that abuse their positions, the public dollar, and the public trust. In this case, these individuals were abusing their power and position, and we moved against them actively and in a professional manner. I am proud of the investigators who worked long hours to pursue and develop these cases, as well as my municipal co-workers that came forward to expose these incidences and assist in our investigation. Most importantly we thank the many co-workers who do an honest day’s job for an honest day’s pay every day,” said Inspector General Wright.

He added that his office has more than 60 other investigations underway, and that additional employees may be arrested in connection with the gas pump thefts. “I live in Newark and raise my kids in Newark,” Inspector General Wright said. “I will not tolerate city workers stealing from me or any other resident, and it will not happen on my watch. But this is the beginning. We will not rest until we end corruption in Newark.”

The title of Inspector General was created last year to address the city’s need to effectively improve the quality of life for all residents. The position serves as the City’s Chief Ethics Officer and receives and investigates complaints of fraud and misconduct. The Inspector General also ensures that the Mayor, Council and all department heads receive mandatory ethics training.

Before his appointment as Inspector General for the City of Newark, Wright served the City of Newark for 19 years, 10 of which as Detective in the Police Department’s Homicide squad. He is experienced in investigating and interviewing victims and suspects. He has resided in the city’s Central Ward for 44 years and was educated within the Newark Public School System.

Mayor Booker noted that the effectiveness of these and other investigations came from other Newark municipal employees. “We have had overwhelming support from our own employees, who were sick and tired of the old and illegal practices, and are ready for change. They have provided us with information and tips in these investigations,” he said. “This city has 4,000 to 5,000 municipal employees and the overwhelming number of them are magnificent public servants who empower this City to be the best. I applaud their dedication.”

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

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