What to Know
- Sources say North Bergen public workers may be committing voter fraud by registering to vote in Hudson County to vote in the town elections
- Sources believe pressure to support Democratic Mayor Nicholas Sacco could be driving some Board of Education employees to vote in the town
- One North Bergen Board of Education employee told NBC 4 that voter fraud within the school system is "a secret everyone knows about"
Multiple sources in North Bergen tell NBC New York public workers may be committing voter fraud by registering to vote in Hudson County, in order to vote in North Bergen elections, but living in other New Jersey counties.
Sources believe the political pressure to support the political machine lead by North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, a Democrat, could be driving some Board of Education employees to vote in the town, despite not living there.
This isn’t the first time the NBC New York I-team has questioned corruption in North Bergen. There have been allegations of a no-show job at the North Bergen Housing Authority, nepotism and pressure on town workers to make political donations to a political committee closely tied to Mayor Sacco. North Bergen officials have denied all of the allegations.
One North Bergen Board of Education employee who agreed to speak with NBC 4 on condition of anonymity, said that voter fraud is well known within the school system.
“Everyone kind of gets intimidated to play the political game,” said the employee.
“And the reason why they have their addresses in North Bergen even though they don’t live there,” claimed the insider, “…is because they’re expected to vote when elections roll around.”
The I-Team obtained a database that included the names and addresses of 649 North Bergen Board of Education workers. It was not possible to verify the address of each one and hundreds do in fact live in North Bergen. But the addresses of sixty-one employees who listed an out of town address in the database were analyzed.
After visiting a number of those homes, the I-Team found circumstances that raise questions of voter fraud in nearly a dozen cases.
“It’s just a secret everyone knows about,” said the insider.
One example is George Haviland, a Supervisor of Music at North Bergen High School. Bergen County records show Haviland purchased a house in Bergenfield in June of 1999. Hudson County voting records obtained by the I-Team show Haviland voted in 10 different elections in North Bergen from 2014 to 2016. The registered address is to a home in North Bergen on First Avenue. The home was owned by his family until 2017.
On behalf of Haviland, Vision Media (a public relations firm that also represents Mayor Sacco) sent a lengthy response to our reporting and in defense of Haviland. "Haviland is a highly regarded high school music teacher who inherited the family home he grew up in and lived there part-time while also living in his own family’s home in Bergenfield,” part of the message stated.
Haviland’s house in Bergenfield (Bergen County) and the house in North Bergen (Hudson County) are just twelve miles apart. Yet, Vision Media added that Haviland’s use of the family’s North Bergen address is “completely legitimate and quite common.”
In April, Haviland was seen leaving the home in Bergenfield. Social media accounts also show his son attended Bergenfield High School until 2015. As of August 1st, Haviland was still registered to vote in Hudson County with the home on 1st Avenue as the registered address.
“That’s the kind of thing that should be investigated,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “And if there’s evidence of an organized effort, then that’s the kind of thing that should be prosecuted.”
As for politics in education, Rasmussen says public schools need to focus on education, not local politics. “We're talking about the public having a right to be confident that their schools are being administered in a professional way, in a non-political way, in a way that is only concerned with the education of our students, that's really what we're talking about,” said Rasmussen.
The insider from the North Bergen Board of Education who spoke on the condition of anonymity believes voter fraud may extend to more than just the education system.
“This is throughout the whole town. This is from the teachers at the Board of Education, Police Department, it’s pretty much everywhere,” the source said.
To test that claim, the NBC New York I-Team also obtained the names of 107 North Bergen Police Officers from public pension records. The database did not contain home addresses, but NBC New York was able to find 56 of them. Although most addresses appeared legit, many did raise a red flag.
One such example is Detective Mark Francin. On occasion, Francin provides security for Mayor Sacco when the mayor attends legislative sessions at the state capital in Trenton, when he is simultaneously serving as a state senator.
Francin’s Hudson County voter registration lists a unit in a complex on Bergenwood Avenue in North Bergen. The condominium was owned by his parents until 2010 and Hudson County voting records show Francin voted 14 times since then. Residents and employees at the complex told the I-team he has not and does not live there.
The I-Team did find Francin twelve miles away in Bergen County at a home on Spindler Terrace in Saddle Brook. Records show Francin also previously owned a different home on Platt Avenue in Saddle Brook since 2003. Neighbors from both homes told NBC New York that Francin lived at each address.
When the I-team visited the home on Spindler Terrance, neighbors had already told Francin someone was looking for him and when Francin approached an I-Team producer, he immediately requested to be off the record, which NBC New York honored.
On behalf of Francin, Vision media’s statement says the detective “is an outstanding police officer who hasn’t voted at all since 2014, when he was also living part-time with his parents in their North Bergen home. How can someone who hasn’t even voted in five years be used as proof of an ongoing voter fraud scheme? By falsely accusing him of illegal voting, NBC is smearing this officer’s good name.”
Insiders tell NBC New York questions of voter fraud have also surfaced at the North Bergen Housing Authority.
Election records show employee Drew Micucci voted in North Bergen three times in 2017 and 2018. Micucci’s voting address was along 73rd street in North Bergen. The building is owned by the Sanzari Brothers LLC., brothers of Housing Authority Director Gerald Sanzari. Sources at the Housing Authority also tell NBC New York that Micucci is dating Director Sanzari’s daughter.
At the house on 73rd St., long-time tenants say Micucci never lived there. One tenant told an I-Team producer she has lived there for decades and another said Micucci only uses the home “just as a mailing address.”
In early June, the I-Team checked out a home on Ridgewood Boulevard in the Township of Washington in Bergen County that is tied to Micucci’s name. One relative at the address told NBC New York that Micucci lived there until May of this year.
As proof of Micucci’s residence in the house on 73rd Street in North Bergen, Vision Media sent an email to the I-Team with a statement reportedly from Sylvester Sanzari of Sanzari Brothers LLC. stating: “Drew Micucci lived on the first floor of my Residence at 112 73rd Street North Bergen New Jersey from May 2016 through May 2018. This property is owned by myself, Sylvester Sanzari and my brother Arthur Sanzari, otherwise known as Sanzari Brothers LLC. Our brother Gerald Sanzari has no vested interest in this property and is not a member of the LLC."
When it comes to fraudulent voting, Rasmussen says that when taxpayers vote, they are influencing where their money goes by exercising the democratic process. But if fraudulent voting comes into play, others that haven’t invested in the tax base could play a part in what happens in someone else’s community.
“I think the real problem is that it undermines the public’s confidence in their elections. It makes people believe that their elections are not fair and even handed,” said Rasmussen. “It’s important to root it out, it’s important to prosecute it.”
Before May’s heated mayoral election, NBC New York reached out to many of the teachers with conflicting addresses, seeking comment and explanations regarding their voter history in North Bergen. Not one responded. Records show that after that election, all the teachers we reached out to — except one — did not vote in that election.
As for the police officers checked out by the I-Team, at least six have now changed their voting registration from North Bergen, to their out of town address.
In the statement sent to the I-Team, Vision Media says the Sacco campaign has never pressured anyone to vote illegally. The statement also suggests that Mayor Sacco’s political opponent, Larry Wainstein, could also be a fraudulent voter based on the measure of NBC New York’s reporting. The Sacco Campaign has alleged for years that Wainstein lives in Franklin Lakes despite running for mayor in North Bergen. The I-team observed Wainstein’s North Bergen home for days and witnessed Wainstein’s wife and children coming and going from the North Bergen house. At the time, the children appeared to be attending a nearby private school. NBC New York did not monitor Wainstein’s house in Franklin Lakes. View of the 5613 square foot Franklin Lakes home is limited. Parking and surveillance is limited in the affluent neighborhood.
Read the entire statement from Vision Media on behalf of those mentioned in this investigation and their full reaction to our report here.