BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - "An unfortunate occurrence took place in the county. An individual who has a significant position in the DPW entered a guilty plea in federal court, essentially indicating that he was taking improper gifts, money, etc. from a vendor. The vendor plead guilty in federal court and both are facing jail time," said Councilman Robert Woodruff at Tuesday night's Town Council Meeting.
"This important aspect further supports our need as a governing body to apply close and strict scrutiny to how our money is spent and what level of accountability we have in place with respect to purchasing in any department," said Woodruff.
The occurrence to which Woodruff involved fraud allegedly committed by former head of facilities management for Union County, Niel Palmieri of Toms River and Berkeley Heights resident Frank Vicendese, owner of Viva Group.
The conspiracy involved splitting proceeds from fake vouchers that were generated and paid to Viva Group between January 2006 and September 2010.
Linda Cavanaugh, Berkeley Heights Town Administrator, is currently working on such protocol. "There is a need to garner the public's trust and assure accountability. We will be continuing our approach towards that," said Woodruff.
Mayor Bruno said, "It is unfortunate when you see a circumstance like this, the county is going to have to address their protocol."
Palmieri and Vicendese have plead guilty and both face jail time and have agreed to pay back money due to the County.