Two employees of the North Bergen Department of Parks and Recreation accused of being paid for no-show jobs over four years ago will receive a hearing in front of a new judge over whether or not evidence was obtained properly in their case.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … In view of the motion judge’s extensive findings regarding the veracity of the detective and deputy attorney general who approved the warrant, on remand the matter should be assigned to a different judge,” Appellate Judges Jack Sabatino, Lisa Rose and Stephanie Anne Mitterhoff ruled today.
The appellate court decided that a new judge should hear the motion out of “an abundance of caution” since “the original original judge made extensive credibility determinations about the witnesses,” referring to a deputy attorney general and a detective from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office who approved a search warrant in the matter.
Back in August 2015, Abraham Garcia and Walter Somick were indicted by the AG’s office for allegedly falsifying timesheets for work they did not perform at the North Bergen Department of Parks and Recreation.
Court records indicated that Garcia was employed full time as security supervisor at the North Bergen Board of Education, where he was also an assistant high school football coach, and still submitted to working 21 hours a week at the rec department.
Furthermore, Somick was said to work around 30 hours a week at the rec department and periodically contracted to perform electrical work for the BOE.
Today’s ruling, which revolved around whether or not the AG’s office properly obtained the timesheets of Garcia and Somick between the fall of 2013 until December 2014, shed some light onto the case – including at least one unnamed Town Hall employee becoming a government informant.
The detective, who is also not named, “conducted both physical and electronic surveillance, using pole cameras placed at [defendants’] residences, in order to determine whether either, or both, were being compensated by the DPR for work or services that they had not or could not have performed.”
Furthermore, beginning in the fall of 2013, the informant met with former North Bergen Department of Public Works Superintendent James Wiley to give him copies of Garcia and Somick’s timesheets.
From there, Wiley gave them over to the detective from the AG’s office.
Wiley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit official misconduct in September 2012 in connection to having DPW workers perform political work while on township time.
From there, he became a key witness for the government in having then-DPW Supervisors Francis Longo and Troy Bunero convicted on a slew of charges including conspiracy and official misconduct in June 2015.
The detective had previously testified that he had not met the informant in person until December 10th, 2014 and the information he or she had presented had been corroborated with payroll records from ADP obtained via a grand jury subpoena.
Additionally, the search warrant in question was executed on the North Bergen Parks and Recreation Department on March 2nd, 2015, supported by an affidavit from a detective with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Corruption and Fraud Bureau.
This date was one week before the AG’s office performed a public raid on North Bergen Town Hall.
The appellate court’s decision also dismisses the notions that the affidavit contained “deliberate falsehoods” and that the AG’s office purposely made false statements necessary for finding probable cause for a search warrant.
At the time of their indictments, a township spokesman said that both Garcia and Somick had been suspended without pay.
He declined to comment on today’s decision by the appellate court.