The Westchester District Attorney’s office is investigating the New Rochelle Department of Works over falsified billing records running into the tens of thousands of dollars and possibly much more, Talk of the Sound has learned. The investigation, which began in New Rochelle, has now expanded to Long Island.
The investigation began with a suspicious $12,000 invoice for maintenance and repair services on a City garbage truck submitted by an approved City vendor, a Long Island company that services industrial vehicles. Two independent evaluations of the vehicle concluded that no work had been done.
The Westchester DA’s office issued a no-comment statement. “We don’t discuss – by either confirming or denying – the existence of an investigation”, said DA Spokesman Lucien Chalfen.. It is worth noting that for several weeks the DA’s office did not respond to repeated request for information regarding this matter.
The investigation centers on Richard Fevang, the Fleet Manager of New Rochelle DPW, sources say. Talk of the Sound has confirmed that the District Attorney has had information about Fevang’s questionable practices since at least the fall of 2009 in addition to an unrelated but similar complaint filed several years ago. The invoice for vehicle G-29 was submitted to Brian Conway, the head of the DA’s Public Integrity division, over the summer of 2010. Conway was later provided two boxes full of DPW invoices dating back two years.
Asked by email to comment and be interviewed, City Manager Charles Strome did not respond. Messages left by telephone for Richard Fevang at DPW were not returned. Asked under FOIL to provide records related to Richard Fevang, NRPD stated they had no such records although NRPD has been aware of the investigation all along.
Sources with direct knowledge of the investigation tell Talk of the Sound that in one case, a truck went out for servicing four years ago and is no longer accounted for in the City Yard. In another case, a truck was sent out to be painted. The company submitted an invoice for $5,000. It was later determined that the company had not sanded or prepped the exterior but simply sprayed a coat of white paint over the rusting vehicle at an estimated cost of $200. There are dozens of similarly suspect invoices, sources say.
A different source tells Talk of the Sound that the boxes of invoices received by the DA’s office were submitted by a City official. Investigators began looking at other invoices and other vehicles and are now working their way through two years of questionable DPW invoices worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Yet another source tells Talk of the Sound that this City official was observed standing at a photocopier, meticulously copying a large number of DPW files. Word that DPW records were being copied in bulk spread like wildfire around City Hall.
It was about this time that then-DPW Commissioner Jeff Coleman abruptly resigned. Coleman who had risen to be the Commissioner of Public Works for the 7th largest city in New York State accepted a position reporting to the head of DPW in the small town of Cortland Manor. At the time, Coleman stated that his reason for leaving New Rochelle was to spend more time with his family. Coleman’s last day in New Rochelle was August 31st.
The sequence of events, confirmed by multiple sources with direct knowledge, suggests that a senior City official independently obtained boxes of DPW invoices for the purpose of taking the highly unusual step of openly bypassing the City Manager and Police Commissioner and going straight to the Public Integrity division of the District Attorney. All of this suggests a significant lack of confidence in Mr. Strome and Police Commissioner Carroll who has, so far, declined comment.
Talk of the Sound has submitted Freedom of Information requests for vehicle G-29, the truck that was sent out for nonexistent repairs at a cost of $12,000. Talk of the Sound has FOIL’d for vehicle G-13 which went missing four years ago. Talk of the Sound has also FOIL’d for all records related to vehicles G-9, A-35, and G-35. Under New York State law, the City is required to acknowledge receipt of FOIL requests within 5 business days. It has failed to do so in this case of each of these records. The City has failed to produce requested records for salary and overtime information for the Department of Public Works including information on Mr. Fevang. More broadly, since June the City of New Rochelle has improperly dragged their feet on FOIL requests for hundreds of records, many readily available in electronic format.
DA investigators have been contacting the vendors listed on the invoices to determine the authenticity of the charges raising questions as to whether New Rochelle was a hub or a spoke in an organized effort to defraud municipalities throughout the New York metropolitan area by fabricating invoices for fleet services that were never provided.
Fevang is been in the fleet management business for many years and has many connections throughout the area. Fevang is a long time member and former President of the Society of Fleet Supervisors. Fevang is also a member of the American Public Works Association. Previous employers include The Hertz Corporation, Baldwin Transportation, Bruno White/GMC Truck Sales, and Tire People, Inc.
Talk of the Sound would like to obtain a photo of Richard Fevang. If you have one please contact us or scan and send it. If you know what he looks like and would be willing, please review the images in these photo galleries on the Society of Fleet Supervisors web site. Fevang was President in 2001 so start with the 2000 and 2002 golf outing photos; if you do not find him check the other ones. If you do find his photo please contact us.
In 2009, a reader using the name “The Shadow” added a comment to our story District Attorney’s Office Looking into ‘Talk of the Sound’ Allegations Against New Rochelle School District which made various unsubstantiated allegations against Mr. Fevang. For legal reasons, Talk of the Sound will not comment on them and makes no representation as the accuracy of these claims, however, the New Rochelle DPW Fleet Manager has responsibility for school district vehicles in addition to city vehicles. While not commenting on claims of “The Shadow”, Talk of the Sound has been informed by a reliable source that several years ago a complaint was filed with the District Attorney’s office alleging that Fevang ordered parts for a school district vehicle (Linda Kelly’s car) but installed the parts on his personal vehicle instead.
Asked to explain why Fevang could be the subject of so much attention by law enforcement and still retain his position in the Department of Public Works, a source with close ties to the department said “everyone has something on everyone so no one is saying nothing about no one”. A statement that he believed applies to all levels of government in New Rochelle.
UPDATE: City Manager Chuck Strome issued a comment to Talk of the Sound: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation conducted by the DA’s office but it is generally our policy to cooperate with the DA’s office and this case is no exception.” As a result I have removed a disclaimer that had been previously posted regarding comments from the City of New Rochelle to Talk of the Sound.