HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Hackensack officials said Friday that they were awaiting direction from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office before responding to allegations made in a federal lawsuit filed by two city DPW workers against their supervisors and the city.
After reviewing the lawsuit with the city and labor attorneys, City Manager Ted Ehrenburg contacted the Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal's staff "to request an investigation and guidance for the city," spokesman Philip Swibinski said.
"While these allegations are being investigated, the city manager will exercise additional oversight into the operations of the DPW," Swibinski wrote.
Ehrenburg says the lawsuit was surprising because the city hadn't received any prior reports of illegal activity.
Under the laws protecting "whistleblowers" the employees making the allegations "were required to report this illegal activity to the proper authorities," Swibinski said.
In papers filed last week in U.S District Court, Mario Candela and Richard Terranova said accused DPW Superintendent Jesse D'Amore and Assistant Superintendent Anthony Seidita of forcing them to make and sell homemade bullets on city property, move furniture from a municipal judge's home and siphon heating oil from a Paterson school for private resale.
Both are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages that city officials deemed "substantial."
“Our administration has a zero tolerance policy for any kind of corruption or misuse of public funds or resources,” Ehrenburg said. “This matter will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if and when we have proof that an employee has violated the public trust.”
Under Civil Service Law, no employee can be suspended without pay unless there is significant evidence of wrongdoing.
“Right now these are allegations made by one group of employees against another,” Ehrenburg said.