A Hudson County Superior Court jury has found North Bergen Department of Public Works Supervisors Francis Longo and Troy Bunero guilty on all charges related to performing personal chores, as well as working political campaigns, while on township time.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The trial had been ongoing for over a month after opening statements commenced on May 27.
Throughout the trial, various current and former North Bergen DPW employees testified, including ex-Superintendent James Wiley – who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit official misconduct in 2012 – and current department laborer Paul Molinero.
Two weeks ago, about three weeks after he used his 5th Amendment right not to answer questions on the stand, Molinero testified that Wiley forced him to commit voter fraud.
The defense team of Brian Neary and Paul Faugno, representing Troy Bunero and Francis Longo, respectively, wanted the jury to focus on the fact that North Bergen DPW Commissioner Frank Gargiulo had family members benefit from DPW laborers.
Additionally, Faugno implied on many occasions that Mayor Nick Sacco also had a role in DPW laborers getting involved in political campaign work throughout the county.
Neither Gargiulo and Sacco have ever been charged of a crime as part of the state Attorney General Office’s probe into the North Bergen DPW, with Faugno pointing out that neither elected official has even been questioned by law enforcement about what they knew regarding Bunero and Longo.
The prosecution said that a spokesman from the state Attorney General’s Office will release a statement on the jury’s verdict later today, while Neary and Faugno agreed they plan on filing an appeal of the court decision.
“We’re very disappointed with the verdict. There are clear appeal issues we will pursue for both these men,” Neary said.
“Legal questions as to the law that will need to be reviewed by higher courts, there are several issues involved,” he added noting that an issue of the duress witnesses when being interviewed by the state Attorney General’s Office prior to the trial will be a factor.
Faugno added that while although the jury came up with a guilty verdict, Longo was technically found not guilty of official misconduct related to work done on Bunero’s home. He said that since that was part of a larger charge, it will only make an impact on sentencing.
Both legal teams declined to go on camera with Hudson County View.
Township spokesman Paul Swibinski said the jury’s verdict allows the North Bergen DPW to move closer to completing an “overhaul” of the government entity.
“This decision brings us one step closer to concluding what has been a very difficult matter for our community. Today the DPW has been completely overhauled,” he said in a statement.
“We have a new management team in place and a renewed commitment to delivering services honestly and efficiently, while protecting both taxpayers and our employees.”
Longo was convicted on charges of charges of conspiracy, two counts of official misconduct, a pattern of official misconduct, theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government.
Furthermore, Bunero was convicted of the same crimes, as well as misapplication of entrusted property and property of government, tampering with public records or information and falsifying records or information.
Bunero and Longo have a sentencing date scheduled for September 18 and could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the misconduct charges and must serve a minimum five years without the possibility of parole.
Judge Paul DePascale will decide if those terms are served concurrently.