An embattled North Bergen Housing Authority employee’s salary doubled in just 16 months, according to information obtained through an Open Public Records Act request.Â
By John Heinis/HUdson County View
Geoff Santini, the security director at the NBHA, was hired on June 30th, 2015 at a salary of $40,000, according to records obtained through the OPRA request.
On December 29th, 2015, Santini received a $10,000 raise, and then by October 8th, 2016, his annual salary had been increased to $79,000, records show. He also receives paid health benefits from the federally funded agency.
A source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak on the matter, said that NBHA Executive Director Gerald Sanzari has the ability to approve employee raises on his own, but those matters typically go in front of the NBHA board.
The source could not confirm if Santini’s raises went through the executive director or the board.
Hudson County View requested the records on March 2nd, just two days after the NBC New York I-Team reported Santini had an extremely low-show $81,386 job, allegedly he went to work for just three hours during a regular work week where he was being surveilled by the news team.
In a follow-up report, the TV station indicated that Santini had been placed on paid leaveÂ as part of an independent investigation conducted by attorney Mark Tabakin, of the high-powered Parsippany law firm Weiner Law Group.
Additionally, the black Chevrolet Tahoe highlighted in the NBC reports was not listed in the OPRA response as being a part of Santini’s compensation from the NBHA.
According to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC), Tabakin has contributed $39,500 to North Bergen Democrats, as well as state Senator (D-32)/Mayor Nick Sacco’s legislative running mates, since 2009.
Then, according to Santini’s job description, also obtained through the OPRA request, said his responsibilities at the NBHA are voluminous, listing dozens of different tasks he is supposed to oversee.
They include scheduling and managing a staff of 18 security guards, reviewing surveillance recordings, reviewing and submitting bi-weekly payroll for security guards – as well as their sick and vacation time – and even conducting fraud investigations of public housing and housing choice voucher backgrounds.
With the internal probe ongoing, Santini, who has at least six animal control business contracts in Hudson County through his company – the New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue – is beginning to face increased scrutiny in this field.
At last week’s Garfield City Council meeting, the governing body moved to rescind Santini’s $46,000 animal control contract. The contract had only been awarded about four months prior (h/t The Record).
Meanwhile, in Bayonne, the council extended NJACR’s $87,500 contract, which was awarded on December 2015 despite some residents expressing concerns, by 30 days at last week’s meeting and appear poised to terminate the agreement next month.
Even more recently, West New York, the town where NJACR’s animal shelter operates, put out a request for proposals for animal control services at their board of commissioners meeting on Thursday.
Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for both the Township of North Bergen and the NBHA, said in an email that “the township is waiting for the housing authority’s investigation to conclude before making any decisions on Santini’s animal control contract.”
He declined to comment on any of the specifics of Santini’s employment at the NBHA, citing the ongoing investigation.
When HCV asked Irene Borngraeber, the executive director of the Jersey-City based non-profit animal shelter Liberty Humane Society, if she planned on contracting with Bayonne, who they previously provided services to, or West New York, she responded:
“We would welcome a discussion with any municipality looking to make the switch to a responsive, progressive animal service provider.”
SantiniÂ isn’t the first NBHA security directorÂ that has come under fire in recent memory.
Back in February 2011, Justin Italo, then the head of NBHA security, was fired after posting photos on his MySpace page holding a gun, endorsing drunk driving, as The Jersey Journal Â reported.
The newspaper also indicated that Italo made $30,000 annually at the time he was fired.
While our OPRA request also sought employment/termination information on Italo, the response from Tabakin said that there were “no responsive records relative to” the former employee.
Tom Wall, an Edgewater attorney representing Santini, could not be reached at his office on Monday.
Mayor Sacco is supposed to ensure that this type of abuse by a municipal employee doesn’t take place. Didn’t he learn anything from the North Bergen and West new York DPW convictions recently?