Union County Director’s Bribery Scheme Update

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Palmieri

One year ago on October 2, 2013, Aniello (Niel) Palmieri, the Union County Director of the Division of Facilities Management, plead guilty to an information charging conspiracy to commit mail fraud in Federal court.

Palmieri admitted to filing purchase orders for goods which were never received. The vendors then paid Palmieri.

On September 27, 2013 via an email from his iPhone to his boss, Joe Graziano, Palmieri resigned his $109,612 county position. Although Palmieri worked up to almost the day of his guilty plea, Graziano was not held accountable for the lack of oversight. No one who worked with Palmieri was replaced. We are to believe that no one that worked above or below Palmieri knew what he was up to.

Palmieri also had a take home 24-7, use for whatever you’d like, county Ford Explorer along with free gas and insurance. The County Watchers reported that Palmieri was able to use another county truck to move personal belongs from one residence to another.

At one point, Palmieri was allowed to rent a county house for $300 a month. The house featured 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, a fireplace and sat on 1.3 acres in Summit. The county paid roughly $10,000 a year in property taxes on the house and Palmieri paid $3,600 a year to live in it.

Just on the operations end, Palmieri had oversight of dozens of vendors and contracts worth millions of dollars. However, only two county vendors would also plead guilty to the same kick-back scheme: October 2, 2013 Frank Vicendes III of the Viva Group; November 20, 2013 Richard Greer owner of Positive Attitude LLC.

At this writing the sentencing dates are as follows:

Aniello Palmieri December 9, 2014 930AM court room 4D before judge walls (docket 2:13-CR649)

Frank Vicendese December 16, 2014 930 AM court room 4D before judge walls (docket 2:13CR648)

Richard Greer was set for March 11, 2014 but was postponed. No sentencing date as of yet is listed on the docket (docket #13-CR747)

The details on all three cases can be found on this F.B.I. press release.

The Union County Watchdog Association has been checking the court calendar for postponements. It is also making sure the county is following through on their claim “The County will pursue every legal means available” seeking restitution from Palmieri. A recent Open Public Records Act request, outlined below, shows Union County may be seeking restitution from their insurance company. However, no legal action has been taken against Palmieri to date. No funds have been recovered.

Excerpt of Meeting minutes of October 10, 2013:
Chairman Carter asked County Manager Faella to make a statement.
County Manager Faella stated earlier this week, he received news that Neil Palmieri, the former Director of the Division of Facilities Management, pled guilty in a Federal Court to criminal charges pertaining to mail fraud relative to his employment at the County. He said the County is outraged by this former employee’s reprehensible actions which occurred between January, 2006 through September, 2010. The County will pursue every legal means available to it to insure full and complete restitution of all losses resulting from this crime.

Records request:

1. Please provide any documents produced while the county pursued every legal means available to ensure full and complete restitution of all losses resulting from this crime. This would include but not be limited to civil actions filed, correspondence with law enforcement officials, correspondence with Palmieri and anyone representing him.

2. Receipts/checks/payments and correspondence pertaining to restitution received from Palmieri.

Response:

Dear Mrs. Renna,

This email constitutes a formal and complete response to your September 19, 2014 OPRA request concerning Niel Palmieri. The documents responsive to Item 1 are attached …. There is no civil action, correspondence with law enforcement officials, or correspondence with Niel Palmieri and anyone representing him, to provide for your request.

Item 2: receipts/checks/payments and correspondence pertaining to restitution received from Palmieri: no documents to provide.

Documents provided to OPRA request.
.

.
Yet back on October 10, 2013 county officials pledged:
.

OMG! Who’s hooking him up?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Niel Palmieri. The name might not ring a bell but you might recall a Star-Ledger article, way back when the Ledger had a reporter covering Union County, about a county employee who was allowed to rent a county house for $300 a month. The house featured 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, a fireplace and sat on 1.3 acres in Summit. The county paid roughly $10,000 a year in property taxes on the house and Palmieri paid $3,600 a year to live in it. Cost to taxpayers: roughly $6,000 a year.

Out of county residency
Palmieri, who is the division head of building services and had an annual salary in 2007 of $106,162 (up from $66,770 in 2000) has since moved to Monmouth County, against the Laws of Union County which clearly state:

B. It shall be the duty of the appointing authority to ensure that all full-time employees hired after November 10, 1983, are and remain bona fide residents of the County of Union during employment. Failure of any such employee to be a resident of the County of Union prior to employment or to maintain residency in the County of Union during employment shall be cause for removal or discharge from service.

County take-home vehicle
Niel Palmieri is allowed use of a county take home 2002 Ford Explorer. Palmieri’s boss, Joseph Grazziano, does not have use of a county take home vehicle. Palmieri is one of only two employees in his division that have this privilege. The other is Freeholder Dan Sullivan’s brother.

Free gas
Palmieri’s county issued 2002 Ford Explorer had the sixth highest fuel consumption among 64 employees with the same privileges in 2007. The other five were law enforcement officers. Palmieri used 1,225.9 gallons of gas at a cost of $2.11 per gallon average to cost taxpayers $2,586.65.

The Laws of Union County has this to say about the county cars:
A. All County cars assigned to those individuals who reside outside of Union County will be restricted to Union County.

H. It shall be the policy of the County of Union that the use of a County-assigned vehicle by an employee shall be limited to official County business, and said vehicle shall not be used for personal purposes with the exception of authorized commuting use to and from the employee’s workstation.

Home Internet Service
Out of 2,842 county employees, Niel Palmieri is one of 10 that are currently having their home internet service paid for by the taxpayers. Not even his boss has his home internet service paid for. Heck, four of the 9 freeholders do not have their home internet services paid for! (Side Note: the other five have never returned even one of my email inquiries, if they don’t communicate with taxpayers then why are we paying for their toys?). The county manager, deputy county manager, clerk of the board and the Director of Personnel also have taxpayer-funded home internet service. This information did not come easy – but that’s another blog.

Blackberry
Palmieri has one.

All of these taxpayer funded privileges, and exceptions to the county’s laws, leaves this watchdog to wondering who Palmieri’s BFF is.

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This old house at $300 a month – Star-Ledger

Employee vehicles and gas consumption

The Laws of Union County