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Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
New York

I-Team: Paterson Mayor Allegedly Asks City Workers to Do Private Work Amid Ongoing Investigation

What to Know

  • The corruption investigation is looking into how the city used federal housing and urban development funding
  • Thursday's search is focusing on the money trail and whether crimes were committed in the way city officials handled federal assistance
  • The federal probe comes as office of NJ's attorney general is conducting its own criminal investigation into Paterson Mayor Joey Torres

A Paterson city worker wrote a memo to his supervisor telling him that Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres had asked him to do a private job for him last May, even though the state attorney general was already looking into claims that the mayor had used city workers for private work.

The I-Team obtained the memo, written by DPW worker Terrence Cobb and addressed to Supervisor Manuel Ojeda, late Thursday. In it, Cobb says the mayor asked him to clean an office at 100 Hamilton Plaza, and bring some items back to City Hall including a bookshelf, a world map and an eagle statue. Cobb did not say in the memo whether he was on the clock at the time, but city workers have told the I-Team he was.

City workers said Torres turned to the lone worker after his initial call to the head of DPW requesting a work crew was rejected because it was not city business. 

Since March, the I-Team has documented about a dozen instances where city workers were seen doing private jobs at the mayor’s home and at a business linked to a mayor’s relative. On numerous occasions, records show taxpayers were billed overtime for the apparent private work.

The I-Team reported earlier this month that Torres turned to the lone worker after his initial call to the head of DPW requesting a work crew was rejected because it was not city business.

The I-Team reported last month that Cobb’s memo was one of two reports filed by city workers claiming that the mayor had asked them to do a private job.

Two workers also filed a memo dating to Oct. 19 complaining the Mayor had asked them to take apart a large metal tie rack at the Paterson’s Men Shop so it could be moved to his home.

The mayor continues to deny any wrongdoing.

"Please be informed that at no time have DPW workers, or any other city workers, perform non-government work at my direction," Torres has said in a statement.

A spokesman for the state attorney general declined to comment on the ongoing investigation. Two sources said the workers’ memos in the May 6 and October 16 incidents are now in the hands of investigators.

Last Friday, FBI agents searched City Hall and other Paterson city offices in connection with a separate federal investigation into possible misuse of Housing and Urban Development money meant for a drug re-entry facility. No charges have been filed and FBI and US Attorney spokesmen declined to comment.

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