A New Jersey housing agency has fired its top security officer after an I-Team investigation raised questions about whether he was spending most of his working hours running a private animal control business.
A North Bergen Housing Authority spokesman said security director Geoffrey Santini was relieved of his duties Friday, a little more than a month after sources told the I-Team he was spending most of his working hours running his private animal control business, which operates in six New Jersey towns. He had been placed on leave in March.
"After consulting with the Special Counsel investigating this matter, North Bergen Housing Authority Executive Director Gerald Sanzari terminated the employment of Director of Security Geoff Santini on March 28, 2018," the spokesman said in a statement Monday. "The NBHA Board was apprised of the decision and formal action will be taken to ratify the decision at the next NBHA Board meeting. NBHA's internal investigation into the matter is ongoing and the Housing Authority will also fully cooperate with any inquiries being made by outside agencies. NBHA is committed to efficiently utilizing taxpayer resources and is currently undergoing an internal review of employee accountability procedures."
An attorney for Santini has not returned calls from News 4 for comment.
An outside law firm was brought in to investigate the corruption allegations detailed in the I-Team report, and the North Bergen Police Department has been called to the North Bergen Housing Authority at least twice as part of an inquiry in the case. Federal subpoenas have been issued in the case, as well.
Insiders familiar with housing authorities in Hudson County contacted the I-Team claiming Santini has a no-show job. They questioned how Santini could be an effective director of security at the housing authority, while also being the animal control officer in six different towns. They also expressed concern over Santini’s use of a black Chevrolet Tahoe, the full-time vehicle assigned to Santini.
A spokesman for the NBHA, Phil Swibinski, previously told the I-Team for a story published Feb. 28 that Santini needs the SUV be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“His (security) job requires him to be available," Swibinski said. "So given those responsibilities, we believe it’s in the best interest of the housing authority to be provided with a vehicle.”
Insiders also told the I-Team he uses the SUV for his animal control business.
The I-Team staked out Santini over five days earlier this year in an attempt to clock the hours he spent working at the NBHA. He was seen on site for three hours over those five different workdays at the authority, which has business hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In an official statement for the Feb. 28 story, Swibinski said, "Over the last six months, Mr. Santini has worked an average of 45 hours per week." The spokesman added, "His daily start and end times vary according to his necessary duties on any given day."
However, the I-Team was often able to find Santini at his animal shelter in West New York. He has also been linked to other side jobs.
Law enforcement sources familiar with this reporting say that at least one of several whistle blowers who called us has now contacted the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.