Friday, October 10, 2014

Political Consultant Escapes Potential Criminal Prosecution

In March of this year, I discovered that Thom Ammirato (the Hackensack City Council's Campaign Manager) who was hired for $78,000 per year by the City of Hackensack to deliver public relations consulting, also had a contract for $21,600 per year in North Arlington.  What was baffling about these contracts was that Ammirato had the time to serve both Hackensack and North Arlington while having a full time position (including health benefits) at the County of Bergen, where he was performing work for County Executive Kathleen Donovan.


Within one week of my questioning the council about Ammirato's conflicting employment obligations, Hackensack, North Arlington, and the County of Bergen were served with subpoenas stemming from an investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.  The story became a public interest piece and was picked up by several media outlets, and even sparked an editorial by The Record. 

As the investigation continued, it became clear that Ammirato not only served the County of Bergen in a full time role and Hackensack and North Arlington as a contractor,  but he served as a paid consultant to an array of political campaigns throughout Northern New Jersey, and even did part time work in East Rutherford.  What started as an investigation seeking a better understanding as to whether or not Ammirato's County of Bergen and Hackensack employments presented conflicts of interest, quickly evolved into a curiosity as to whether or not Ammirato had discovered the ability to clone himself.  Was Thom Ammirato the real life version of the 1996 movie Multiplicity?

As much media attention and public outcry this investigation generated, the story died down when Ammirato was fired from Hackensack and  eventually quietly resigned from the County of Bergen.

But had Ammirato done anything wrong?

Documents obtained by the Hackensack Scoop confirm that Ammirato very well may have been breaking the law by collecting a paycheck and benefits from the County of Bergen.  

An "Agreement Not to Prosecute" signed by both Thom Ammirato and Prosecutor John Molinelli confirms that the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office was investigating criminal conduct in their belief that Thom Ammirato was "falsifying time sheets and committing theft from the County of Bergen by working substantially less hours than required by his employment..."  

The document goes on to state that it is believed to be in the best interests of justice and the citizens of Bergen County to resolve the matter while avoiding "criminal responsibility" for Ammirato.  In exchange for Molinelli stopping his office's investigation, and agreeing not to prosecute Ammirato, Ammirato tendered his resignation from the County of Bergen on August 1, 2014. 

A request for comment from Ammirato was initially met with "how did you get that?" Later Ammirato changed his tone and in an apparent attempt to insinuate there is no such document he asked "are you sure you aren't being played?" I asked Ammirato if he was not represented by Darren Del Sardo, Esq. and did not sign an agreement (pictured below), Ammirato would not directly answer the question.

But is the public interest really best served?

Thom Ammirato "performed work" for County Executive Kathleen Donovan and reported directly to Donovan's Chief of Staff, Jeanne Baratta.  Why was Ammirato given this job with such carte blanche to come and go and do work as he pleased when all other employees with the same title had set hours and a desk assignment?  Who either authorized his "work whenever from where ever" working arrangement or failed to supervise him?  Why is the County Executive's office not being called to task?  It is not like Kathleen Donovan can say she was not aware one of her full time employees was working in Hackensack--she served on the Hackensack City Council's transition team!  Why are Ammirato's 27 months of pay and benefits not being reimbursed to the County of Bergen?  Where is the restitution for the taxpayer?  It looks to me like the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office let Ammirato and the County Executive's office off easy as neither is being forced to reimburse the tax payer or answer for how this alleged theft was allowed to happen under the Donovan and Baratta watch.


9 comments:

  1. Steve, Isn't that the guy who said you had no following ?

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  2. More proof that the connected get away with everything at the tax payers expense. No justice here for the citizens of bergen county

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  3. What if this guy was a cop? I bet he wouldn't avoid prosecution. He would have been arrested,bailed,tried,convicted and FIRED. Is that correct Mr Molinelli ?

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    1. Or a cop would have retired, started collecting his six figure pension with Cadillac benefits, and possibly been rehired as 'civilian' police director. Just sayin'.

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    2. To "Just Sayin'" I can't imagine what town or police director you are referring to in your post. However, my town, Hackensack, was able to hire a civilian director who had recently retired. He has turned around not only our department but our city. All this at a nominal salary with no benefits. Any doubts as to his effectiveness, just look at Hackensack's stats and streets. Somehow he has managed to motivate 97% of his department. These recent changes are one of the main reasons developers are showing interest in our city. I am happy the example in my town, is far different than the one you may have in your town. Possibly our director would either volunteer or for a nominal fee offer consulting services to your town.

      I would sign my name... but I think you know who I am.

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  4. Take it to a higher level; State investigation. This crew came in like a bunch of thieves. Catania is still there but under censure. It is obvious the fish stinks from the head. Still no answers, right?

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  5. Lets not forget our friend the Prosecutor JM who got into office and dismissed all DV and Agg assault charges for a friend who beat his girlfriend to a bloody pulp and who is now Chief of a certain police dept. Wow !!! how can this happen pick and choose who we prosecute.

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