A former federal prosecutor will conduct a review of city policies and procedures and recommend corrective action on the heels of two city employees terminated for their roles in turning scrap-metal sales into cash in the Public Facilities Department. Federal investigators have launched a criminal probe into the matter including interviews with city employees and issuing subpoenas for records.
Joseph Jaffe, who oversees regulatory compliance for the New York-based investigative firm Guidepost Solutions, has been retained following the terminations of Deputy Director of Public Facilities Joe Tiago and another department employee Jose DeMoura. They were fired two weeks ago after due process hearings before Labor Relations. Tiago and DeMoura, cousins, were unionized employees.
What will Jaffe and his team do?
The firm’s role will include a review of city practices and procedures, interface with various city departments such as Finance, Purchasing, Public Facilities as well as the U.S Attorney’s Office investigating the matter.
Ultimately his findings will be shared with the administration and City Council to enact recommended reforms.
Friday night Mayor Joe Ganim echoed a refrain, “This administration has zero tolerance in the breach of the public trust. We need a greater degree of clarity” of what occurred.
Ganim must be particularly sensitive to the nature of this case given his 2003 conviction on public corruption charges. Bridgeport voters returned him to office in a historic second-chance campaign in 2015. He’s seeking another four-year term, with State Senator Marilyn Moore, so far, his chief opponent.
Ganim also reasserted that the practice of scrap metal for cash predated his second administration.
Federal investigators are unpacking the scrap metal sales for cash as well as Tiago’s relationship with local contractor VAZ that has received substantial city work.
Tiago, a restaurateur and former zoning commissioner, has a construction background. He was hired under the Bill Finch administration. In 2014 he sold properties to VAZ that have come under review. The Vaz brothers have a reputation for quality work.
Following Ganim’s return to office in in 2015, Tiago was promoted by Public Facilities Director John Ricci who had a friendship with Tiago.
City Council President Aidee Nieves backs Jaffe’s hire declaring “It helps to clean up some of the practices of the way things have been done and ensure that we have corrective action on standard operating procedures.”
Jaffe’s firm has been hired by City Attorney Christopher Meyer who addressed the potential costs:
“Hopefully we will keep it to a minimum. We negotiated his rate to a maximum rate of $425 per hour. Lesser rates apply to other experts in his firm including project managers and accountants $270 per hour.”
The hourly amount will be drawn from a $75,000 budget line item from the City Attorney’s Office outside legal fees, according to the city.
Mr. Jaffe has overseen and participated in a host of investigative and fact gathering assignments for foreign governments and state, federal, and private entities related to allegations of employee dishonesty, fraud, sexual harassment, union corruption, inventory and intellectual property theft, prevailing wage violations, corporate compliance and governance, money laundering, construction accidents, and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He supervised numerous asset searches and due diligence investigations into the backgrounds of employees, entities and customers for corporations and financial institutions and coordinated litigation support assignments for trial attorneys in civil and criminal cases.
Mr. Jaffe joined Guidepost Solutions in 2012. His extensive background includes serving as District Attorney for Sullivan County, New York; spending seven years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, Chief of the Official Corruption Section, and Administrative Assistant U.S. Attorney; and serving as an Acting Chief Inspector for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration where he investigated and tried complex business fraud, public corruption, terrorist and bombing cases.