Trouble in Maplewood
MAPLEWOOD – This story starts with something simple – repairing a women’s restroom.
But it now includes an arrest, an administrator fired and a whistleblowers’ lawsuit against the municipality.
The suit by Gerald Giaimis, the ousted administrator, was filed last November, but has gained more prominence with the arrest this week of Cesare Riccardi, the township’s DPW superintendent.
If it sounds like an “only in New Jersey” saga, that’s because it probably is.
Officials in Maplewood, a township of about 25,000 in Essex County, were confronted last spring with a seemingly mundane project – fix a bathroom in the municipal building.
Three bids were submitted for the job and according to the suit, Administrator Giaimis learned from the town engineer that all the bids were “abnormally high.”
Not only that, something about the bids seemed fishy.
The suit says that upon review, one individual submitted all three bids on a “single Microsoft document,” but “represented” to the township that each quote was from a separate company.
DPW Supervisor Riccardi, the suit says, recommended the hiring of one of the bidders, 28 Sunrise Way, for $20,950.
But that was only part of it. The suit says that the same pattern was detected with other public works projects totaling more than $100,000. That is, multiple bids would be submitted by apparently the same individual.
It was this activity that led to Riccardi’s arrest Monday on charges of second degree official misconduct by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Riccardi was processed and released pending further hearings, according to Robert Florida, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.
“The ECPO is investigating, but since it’s an open and active investigation … we can’t comment further,” Florida said.
New Jersey, obviously, is no stranger to alleged wrongdoing by public employees. The charges against Riccardi will run their course.
But the suit is about more than that.
The litigation revolves around what happened when Giaimis raised the possible – and now alleged – bid-rigging with the town’s elected officials. Also in the mix was an issue with the 2022 municipal budget, which was compiled very late.
The suit says that when the matter was discussed by the township committee on July 5 of last year. officials were skeptical.
The suit, in fact, quotes the mayor, Dean Dafis, as saying, “O my goodness” and “I can’t believe this.” (The answer to the suit filed on behalf of the township denies this allegation).
More meetings were held among officials in subsequent weeks with the suit contending that Giaimis wanted to terminate Riccardi. That didn’t happen.
The 2022 budget was also a topic of discussion with Giaimis asserting that the budget was late because of the failures of the township’s chief financial officer.
This internal skirmishing apparently came to a head in early September when Giaimis was told by the mayor that he was being replaced as administrator, which is something the township in its filing confirms. The original plan was for Giaimis to remain through the end of last year, but he ended up departing in October at the township’s request.
The suit, which also accuses the township of violating the Open Public Meetings Act or Sunshine Law, was filed under the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Normally called the Whistleblowers Law, the idea is to protect employees who highlight wrongdoing in government.
In this case, Giaimis asserts he lost his job because he spoke up about bid-rigging and a failure to produce a timely budget.
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Law breaking in Maplewood is not limited to a few, it is prevalent with the police, prosecutor, petty administrative positions such as code enforcement and even court personnel. There is a failure to control these public servants and the jobs they are responsible to accomplish. A blaring example is across from my house where they spent money on repairs for a failure project that involved the engineer who actually made a bad problem worse. Town taxes are just food for the corrupt and connected.
This is not at all shocking and I am pretty sure it’s the tip of the iceberg. These things don’t happen without a tacit understanding between multiple folks. The fact that the administrator was fired for raising it is telling. A watchdog body with special powers should be appointed to oversee all financial dealings of the town.
There’s no reason for this corrupt “township” founded in racism 19th century to evade a Newark populated by Irish/Polish/Jewish & Italian Immigrants to exist in our modern day. It should be reannexed /returned to Newark. All these inner “suburbs” should return to being Newark neighborhoods. End the 22 duplicate Essex County governments!
Same for WEST ORANGE!!!
How sad to learn this, even sadder to learn of an innocent administrator Gerald Giaimis wrongful termination because he spoke up trying to do the right thing as a township admin. Happy this came out! Hoping case will continue to expose wrongdoing and price rigging with guilty officials terminated to Maplewood residents advantage
Jerry Giamis has been fired by 5 NJ towns in as many years! Just Google his name, many similar stories of fights with Councils and lawsuits on his way out. The only real question is why Maplewood ever hired him!
When I was foreman of pool in Maplewood I saw more wrong doing no one would believe.
I was forced to retire early in 2019 as I was forced to be quite .
Luis, you could not have made less sense if you tried. Read a (history) book, take a math class and think before you attach your name to a nonsensical rambling of a comment on a public forum
Have you heard about Jerry Giaimis? He’s been fired by at least 4 towns in NJ about a year after hiring, and they always end with lawsuits and drama in the press. Maplewood was smart to cut ties.