On March 11th, DPW Commissioner Alex Tergis sent a letter to DPW administrators instructing them to refuse to talk with City Council members and to immediately refer any attempts by City Council Members to communicate with administrators or staff to the City Manager or DPW Commissioner.
In his letter, Tergis states that communications between City Council members and any DWP employees is inappropriate under the Council-Manager form of government”.
…any contact between members of the’Department and any elected officials should be coordinated by either the office of the Commissioner or the office of the City Manager. Should you, or any member of your staff, be contacted by an elected official at any level, that official should be politely referred to either office, where the Secretary to the Commissioner or the CityManager’s staff can accommodate them. Such contact should be reported to this office as soon as possible.
The New Rochelle Department of Public Works is currently under investigation by the Westchester District Attorney’s office, a story first reported here on Talk of the Sound. The investigation was initiated after DPW employees contacted City Council Member Louis Trangucci early last year to report on invoices submitted by vendors for work on city vehicles that was not performed. The investigation, which initially focused on Richard Fevang, the DPW Fleet Manager. Fevang is of the four administrators addressed in the letter; the main whistleblower works for Fevang so the letter constitutes instructing the whistleblower to stop providing information to Trangucci.
The investigation began in earnest when Council Member Trangucci bypassed the City government and delivered copies of two years worth of DPW invoices to the District Attorney’s Office after meeting with the whistleblower. The investigation has also deepened, going back beyond the two years covered in the boxes of records delivered by Trangucci. Several retired City employees were brought in for questioning and “encouraged” to sign affidavits. Within the DPW, the word is that Fevang, who has vowed to take everyone down with him if he goes down, is “singing like a canary.”
Since Talk of the Sound first reported on the investigation it has widened to include the Parks and Recreation Department and the Finance Department. The District Attorney raided the City Yard this past December, locking down the maintenance building at the City Yard on E. Main Street where Fevang has his office and removed files and computer hard drives.
Fevang has been under investigation by the District for 9 of the last 11 years, going back to an incident in 2001 when he reportedly order car parts for then-School Superintendent Linda Kelly’s official vehicle but installing the parts on his own car.
According to sources at City Hall, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson has complained about Trangucci for not reporting the matter to City officials first so that the City to handle the matter without involving the District Attorney. Bramson has expressed his annoyance with Trangucci for refusing to agree that in the future Trangucci would bring any additional allegations of wrongdoing to City officials rather than the District Attorney. Trangucci refused on the grounds that as an elected official he has an affirmative obligation to report instances of public corruption to the Public Integrity Bureau of the Westchester District Attorney office.
Tegris is new to the Department of Public Works having started last December. He replaced Jeffrey Coleman who abruptly resigned last summer, less than two weeks after DA Investigators visited the New Rochelle City yard for the first time, in order to “spend more time with his family”.
City officials have delivered similar messages in various departments of the City government with regard to Talk of the Sound. After Talk of the Sound ran a story on sanitation route reductions last month, a special meeting was called informing city workers they were not allowed to make contact with Talk of the Sound. After Talk of the Sound ran a story on vandalized parking meters at the New Rochelle Library parking lot, City workers in the Parking Bureau were similarly warned. Police officers have received similar instructions during roll call.
School district officials have done the same. Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak send a letter to all building principal and department heads ordering them not to communicate with Talk of the Sound and to refer all contacts by Talk of the Sound with school officials and staff to his office.