PATERSON, NJ – Former city school board member Daniel Vergara – who some considered a role model for Paterson youth - was arrested Thursday on burglary charges involving his job as an inspector with the municipal Department of Public Works (DPW), police said.
Police say Vergara, 51, stole a laptop, DVD player, coffee pot, Magic Bullet blender, cash, and jewelry from a two-family house on E. 37th Street when he was sent there on January 17 to inspect oversized items that a resident was requesting be picked up by city sanitation workers.
No one was home when Vergara arrived at the house, on the 400 block of E. 37th Street, and he took the items from the second-floor apartment, according to a press release issued by Paterson Police Director Glenn Brown. The stolen items later eventually were found at Vergara’s home, police said. The case was handled by Det. Vaughan Patterson.
Vergara had been on the city payroll since 1996 and has been active as a leader of Boy Scout Troop #911 since 1997. He served from 2004 until 2007 on the Board of Education and unsuccessfully ran for a seat in last April’s school election, when he finished last among five candidates. He also is a former president of the city’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“I’m in utter disbelief,’’ said Councilman Andre Sayegh, who served with Vergara on the school board, “especially because he’s considered by some to be a role model for the youth of this city.’’
“It’s unfortunate to hear,’’ said Councilman Kenneth McDaniel regarding the charges against Vergara. “He served as a role model and was a positive force in our youth programs for quite some time.’’
“I’m surprised, given his interest in working with the children on the board and with the Boy Scouts,’’ said Jonathan Hodges, who also served with Vergara on the school board. “He’s only been charged and hasn’t been convicted. Everybody deserves their day in court.’’
“I think he’s done a lot of good for the kids and I’ve always supported him on that,’’ said Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, who attended Vergara’s school board campaign kickoff event last year.
“Danny Vergara has always cared about the youth of this community through his work on the school board and the Boy Scouts,’’ said former school board member Joseph Atallo, who served as a school commissioner with Vergara.
Vergara could not be reached for comment. City Business Administrator Charles Thomas said municipal officials were waiting to receive the formal charges levied against Vergara. "Once that happens, we'll commence our disciplinary procedure,'' said Thomas.
Paterson Public Works Director Christopher Coke said, “We hold our employees to the highest standards.’’
Last January, someone burglarized a city public works garage and took more than $12,000 worth of equipment in what authorities said seemed like an inside job. But police said that Thursday’s arrest of Vergara did not stem from that incident.