New Jersey’s largest sewerage authority was hit with new allegations Tuesday when three administrators were arrested and charged with official misconduct for allegedly using employees to perform personal home improvements and repairs during work hours.
Attorney General Paula Dow announced charges against Anthony Ardis of Paterson, Kevin Keogh of Roseland and Chester Mazza of Totowa, all employees of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners. Ardis, a former commissioner now serving as a clerk to the board of commissioners, is paid more than $200,000, according to Criminal Justice Director Stephen Taylor.
Keogh made $186,201 as superintendent of special services, who was hired in 1999 as a safety inspector at a rate of $48,633. He was provided with an agency vehicle, a 2009 Dodge Durango. Mazza was the assistant superintendent of special services, was paid $127,276 and also provided with a vehicle.
All three were arrested at the commissioners’ office in Newark, and bail for each was set at $75,000.
“This was arrogance and greed by supervisors and officials,” Dow said. “It was treating subordinates like personal handymen, at the expense of the public. This conduct is really outrageous and shouldn’t be tolerated in any public entity.”
The arrests came a week after Gov. Chris Christie said he would remove six of the sewer authority’s seven commissioners for ethics violations that included hiring family members and funneling contracts to politically connected businesses.
This week, executive director Wayne Forrest said he had ordered salary cuts for all employees making more than $100,000 and would institute new ethics rules.
According to the criminal complaint released Tuesday, workers tore down wallboard and installed wood panels at Ardis’ mother’s home in Paterson and replaced two air conditioning units at the home of his girlfriend. Employees allegedly worked on a deck, replacement windows and kitchen cabinets at Keogh’s house.
Mazza had a roof vent installed and an exterior wall repaired at his house, the complaint alleges.
The workmen, all skilled tradesmen employed by the authority, weren’t paid separately and made little attempt to hide what they were doing, according to Taylor.
“It was out in the open,” he said. “They took the PVS truck and drove it to someone’s private residence while in uniform and did work on someone’s house.” Taylor said some of the workmen may have kept quiet about the arrangement for fear of retaliation, but added that others offered information to investigators voluntarily.
The violations date back to 2006, Dow said. Under a tougher law passed in April 2007, official misconduct carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison term upon conviction. The maximum term is 10 years.
A person who answered the phone at Keogh’s house Tuesday said Keogh had been instructed not to comment on the allegations. Ardis did not return a phone message seeking comment, and Mazza and Forrest could not be reached by phone.