Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N. Bergen Officials Convicted

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N. Bergen Officials Convicted

Article excerpt

Two North Bergen public works supervisors on Tuesday were found guilty of official misconduct and other charges for their roles in getting subordinates to perform personal chores for them or work on political campaigns while being paid with public funds.

Defendants Troy Bunero, 48, of North Bergen and Francis Longo, 49, of Ridgefield Park declined to comment on the outcome outside a courtroom in state Superior Court in Jersey City. Their attorneys said both men would appeal the verdicts, reached after several days of jury deliberations.

State prosecutors had alleged the two schemed with their boss, James Wiley, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit official misconduct. They had Department of Public Works employees perform chores around Wiley's home -- including cleaning his pool and hanging up holiday decorations -- renovate Bunero's house and paint Longo's truck, then logged the work as DPW hours so the employees would be paid by the township, prosecutors said.

Bunero and Longo also were convicted of working on political campaigns or assigning others to do so while being paid by the township. The campaigns included the November 2008 mayoral race in Bayonne, the May 2009 mayoral race in Jersey City and the November 2010 county sheriff's race, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Overall, prosecutors said, the misconduct spanned six years, from January 2006 to February 2012.

The jury found them guilty of second-degree charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and a pattern of official misconduct. They also were found guilty of theft by unlawful taking and misuse of government property. Bunero, furthermore, was convicted of tampering with public records and falsifying records for submitting fake time sheets.

Defense attorneys cast their clients as victims of a tyrannical boss who demanded that everyone follow his orders or risk losing their jobs. They had hoped to argue that their clients acted under duress, but two appellate court judges ruled they could not use that defense.

"We felt the whole case was based upon duress," said Paul Faugno, attorney for Longo. "There definitely will be an appeal."

Brian J. Neary, attorney for Bunero, added that there are other appeals issues but did not elaborate.

Victor Salgado and Julia Zukina, the deputy attorney generals who tried the case, declined to comment.

But Elie Honig, director of the Criminal Justice Division in the Attorney General's Office, said in a statement that the portrayal of Bunero and Longo "as little guys who just passed on orders from their boss ... didn't square with the fact that the orders included renovating Bunero's home and painting Longo's truck." Honig said the men "eagerly exploited their supervisory positions and the workers under them for their personal gain. …

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