Crime and Courts

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

Paterson Mayor Joey Torres Returns to City Hall Day After He's Indicted

Meanwhile, one of the DPW workers charged in the case turned himself in at state police barracks Wednesday

Paterson Mayor Joey Torres appears to be taking his time turning himself in, one day after he and three city workers were indicted in a state corruption investigation. 

Torres stayed away from news cameras outside his home Wednesday, and was picked up around the corner before heading to City Hall. For now, that's where he appears to be staying, protected in his second-floor office by security.

He's not legally bound to turn himself in right away, but it's frustrating to residents who first voted him out of office seven years ago before he got his seat back in 2014. 

"How much more damage will the community suffer behind the moves that are made by this administration?" said Lynda Gallashaw, a citizen activist who tried to launch a recall vote of the mayor last year. "We're not satisfied at all. We're told that we're broke, that we're in debt -- and yet jobs are being handed out." 

Meanwhile, Paterson Department of Public Works employee Joseph Mania surrendered at the state police barracks in Totowa Wednesday. 

He, along with Timothy Hanlon and Imad Elmowaswes, allegedly performed private jobs at a warehouse owned in part by Torres' daughter while on the city's time. 

Mania's attorney, Ray Flood, told News 4 his client will plead not guilty and that they were looking forward to going to court. 

The mayor of New Jersey's third-largest city was the subject of months of I-Team reporting on municipal workers being paid to do private jobs for him and his relatives. 

"This is a case of old-school public corruption and abuse of power," Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said at a news conference announcing the charges Tuesday. "Mayor Torres allegedly treated city workers like his personal handymen, treated taxpayer dollars like his own."

Torres released a statement Tuesday saying, "I fully intend to vigorously defend myself against these allegations, and I look forward to the opportunity to present all of the facts in a court of law. I am confident when the full story is told, I will be vindicated." 

First elected to Paterson's city council in 1990, Torres became mayor in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. The Democrat lost a bid for a third term in 2010 but re-gained his seat in 2014.

Through much of 2016, Torres refused to answer questions about a series of I-Team stories that appeared to show city employees doing private jobs for him, from washing his scooter and building bookshelves to doing construction at his nephew's would-be beer business.

When the I-Team caught up with him before the first report in March 2016, Torres said in an email no employees had ever done private jobs for him while on overtime. "Please be advised that at no time has any city employee, on city time, or overtime, or paid with taxpayer dollars, ever performed work for me at my home, or anywhere else," he wrote.

The I-Team later obtained records that seem to show that at least eight employees had indeed been earning overtime during the same periods they were seen on camera doing private work at the mayor's home and the planned beer business. But the mayor never responded to requests for further explanation. 

Torres is the second prominent New Jersey mayor to face criminal charges in the last four months. In an unrelated case, Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges on Nov. 18 and resigned from office.

A concurrent federal investigation into Torres is underway, the I-Team has reported, but there have been no charges in that probe. 

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