Footage shows Trenton workers possibly taking cash to haul off trash | News
TRENTON – garbage for cash?
The city is investigating four public works workers taped last month and accepting obvious incentives, possibly cash, to clear a veritable landfill from a Hiltonia home.
Amazing footage showed the obvious exchange between a woman in dark clothes and a plumbing worker in Trenton on the afternoon of December 28th.
Union officials call this all a major misunderstanding and vow to fight any discipline that workers may face after an investigation is over.
City spokesman Will Skaggs said the legal department opened an investigation when the city became aware of the footage this week.
Officials are investigating whether the apparent exchange violates public works department guidelines after the garbage collectors were shown to have entered the Hiltonia residence’s driveway.
“For political reasons, plumbing workers are specifically prohibited from going into private property to collect rubbish,” Skaggs said. “You can only collect what’s left on the curb.”
Skaggs added that the city takes allegations of employee misconduct “very seriously”.
Ron McMullen, president of AFSCME New Jersey Council 63, the union that represents city workers, described the video as “an extreme misinterpretation of what actually happened”.
The union official planned to interview the garbage collectors on Wednesday to get their sides of the controversial trap.
The union said it would fight any charges against the workers that were not identified after the investigation.
“Our position is that our members did nothing wrong and we will contest and address this throughout the process,” said McMullen.
The video made available to The Trentonian first appeared on Trenton Orbit, a popular Facebook forum that tracks daily events and mishaps in the capital.
One commentator described the scene outside of West Ward Hiltonia as “clown cars with more and more clowns getting out,” except for this case, with garbage bags “coming and going” from home.
A concerned Trenton resident monitored the footage 24/7 and made it available to Mayoral critic Mike Ranallo, who gleefully posted it online.
In one post, Ranallo described people wearing red shirts in the video as “contractors” – a detail The Trentonian has not independently verified.
“Can contractors pay the City of Trenton garbage collectors to take away contract waste,” Ranallo wrote. “I’ve always thought that the contractors are responsible for getting their own waste away.”
Residents can schedule pickup of bulk items like stoves, refrigerators, and household furniture, but workers can only pick up five items per visit.
In an interview, Ranallo said that the person who provided the video wanted to remain anonymous but hoped to draw the attention of Trenton leaders because of the capital’s widespread corruption history.
Former Mayor Tony Mack spent some time in the Federal Slammer in a parking garage bribery program. And his half-brother, former Public Works Supervisor Stanley “Muscles” Davis, was jailed for official misconduct after the city-time crews performed part-time jobs with city equipment.
Ranallo turned the footage over to public works manager Wally Onitiri, who promised to investigate the alleged handover in which the woman was clutching a garbage man’s forearm as if to say “thank you”.
Then both renounced each other and the woman walked away from the camera, as the footage shows. The staff huddled together like a soccer team and seemed to be paying off the obvious incentive, as the footage shows.
A worker apparently put everything he received in his back pocket.
Some residents described a polite practice of dumping Trenton garbage collectors for their hard work throughout the year.
When asked, McMullen, the union boss, said this was “a great opportunity” for what had happened, especially three days after Christmas.
He added that funds were not exchanged for city workers to remove debris or trash from contractors.
Spokesman Skaggs was still investigating whether public works policy prevented garbage collectors from accepting tips.
Onitiri, Mayor Reed Gusciora’s public works director, thanked Ranallo in an email for bringing the matter to the attention and described the actions depicted on the video as “an example of some conscientious staff”.
It is believed that Oniitri meant that the staff were acting unscrupulously.
He didn’t reply to a message in his office for clarity.