News Feature | October 12, 2017

New Jersey Utility Workers Allegedly Took Bribes To Lower Bills

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

gavel reg new

Two employees of the water utility in New Brunswick, NJ, were indicted last month after they alleged took bribes to lower customers’ bills.

“The two indicted public officials, meter reader William Ortiz and clerk Joseph DeBonis are both 55 years old and have been with the city's water utility since the 1990's,” New Brunswick Today reported.

Authorities allege that the pair took bribes as high as $4,200 to lower customers' water and sewer bills as much as 90 percent. The indictment means a grand jury decided the men should stand trial.

“The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging the following men with conspiracy (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), bribery in official and political matters (2nd degree), and tampering with public records or information (3rd degree),” according to a statement from New Jersey.

After the men were initially arrested last year, they were suspended without pay. “DeBois earned $43,221 and Ortiz earned $46,864,” Patch reported.

New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced the indictment in a statement.

“Ortiz and DeBonis had a duty to ensure water customers were properly billed based on accurate readings, but we allege they corruptly solicited bribes in return for falsifying bills and meter readings,” he said.

This is not the first legal proceeding to face a New Brunswick water worker.

New Brunswick Water Utility inspector Edward O’Rourke confessed several years ago that “he lied about testing the area’s drinking water. O'Rourke was in charge of overseeing Middlesex County's drinking water and, last December, he admitted in court that he knowingly submitted false water purity reports to the state Department of Environmental Protection,” Patch reported.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Labor Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Rumble Press," 3D_Judges_Gavel © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/