PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Paterson’s mayor faces corruption charges after he allegedly had on-the-clock city employees complete renovation projects for him and his family.
Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced the charges Tuesday afternoon.
“This is a case of old-school public corruption and abuse of power,” Porrino said in a press conference.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is accused of helping his daughter and nephew renovate a property on East 15th Street in Paterson for their new beer distribution business and having city employees do the work — all on the tax payers’ dime, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“Mayor Torres allegedly treated city workers like his personal handymen, treated taxpayer dollars like they were his own,” Porrino said.
That alleged work included carpentry, electrical and painting for the family business — Quality Beer, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
“Honest, responsible people don’t take their coworkers home during the day and ask them to perform renovations on their personal property,” Porrino said.
While Porrino held the press conference, Torres stood in front of city hall to respond to the charges against him.
He never said a word, instead having a spokesperson read a statement on his behalf, Sanchez reported.
“I am extremely disappointed and surprised that the attorney general has elected to pursue this case and file these charges against me today. I have been aware of the investigation for some time and I have never wavered from the fact that I am innocent,” the spokesperson read.
Prosecutors say Torres instructed Public Works supervisors Joseph Mania, Imad Mowaswes and Timothy Hanlon to work, or assign subordinates to do work, on the private property, while they should have been working for the city.
The supervisors also face corruption charges. Mowaswes and Hanlon were seen leaving the state police barracks in Totowa after being processed Tuesday afternoon.
“These employees were on the clock for the city and being paid overtime wages,” Porrino said.
While prosecutors say their investigation is primarily based on evidence of corruption found during work at the warehouse, the investigation is still ongoing and could include allegations that city workers also helped Torres with renovations at his home in Paterson, Sanchez reported.
Some of his constituents were disgusted by the allegations.
“That’s abuse of power, and if he’s guilty, then he should pay the price,” said Edgardo Collazo.
Torres faces multiple charges, including conspiracy and official misconduct. If convicted, he could be sentenced to spend up to 10 years in prison or pay up to $150,000 in fines.
He says he has no plans to step down as mayor, Sanchez reported.
Torres, the first Hispanic mayor of Paterson, won his first term in 2002 as a Democrat and was re-elected in 2006. He lost another re-election bid in 2010 but won the office again in 2014, running as an independent.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)