SOURCES: NJ AG’s Office ‘heating up’ investigation into JC Rec Dept. payroll scandal

The criminal investigation of a former Jersey City Rec Dept. employee – now working in Mayor Steven Fulop’s Quality of Life Task Force – for payroll fraud is “heating up” at the NJ AG’s Office and potentially expanding, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

(Left to right): NJ A.G. Gurbir Grewal, city worker Angela Rivera, and Municipal Prosecutor Jacob Hudnut.

It’s not exactly the reopening of a cold case, but an investigation started approximately 18 months ago by the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General (NJOAG) into a former Jersey City Recreation Dept. worker is “heating up” and could be expanding, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sources say Angela Rivera, since reassigned to Mayor Steven Fulop’s Quality of Life Task Force, met with NJOAG officials about a month ago to answer questions related to allegations that she misappropriated rec dept. payroll funds while serving under then-Director Kevin Williamson – first brought to light by Bruce Alston in April 2018.

Per details from the whistleblower lawsuit of city employee Sabrina Harrold, Rivera is accused of abusing her role within the payroll process to endow family members with no-show jobs. Additionally, according to Harrold’s complaint, when Fulop became aware of the situation by Williamson’s successor, Arthur Williams, the mayor was supposedly more concerned about Rivera’s ties to the Hispanic community.

Despite the allegations and the NJOAG rec dept. investigation, reported by the Jersey Journal in May 2018, Fulop decided to place Rivera in his highly-publicized task force with Jersey City Municipal Prosecutor Jacob Hudnut. Whether Rivera is prosecuted or not, it raises questions regarding the integrity of a task force that’s enforcing city laws – with a member being investigated by the state for criminal allegations.

In Rivera’s defense, sources say her offense was “minor” compared to others and that she could provide NJOAG officials with information on “bigger fish” in Jersey City in exchange for leniency.

Of note, according to a recent NBC4NY report, NJ A.G. Gurbir Grewal said his office was too slow in stepping up corruption fighting efforts, but is now pressing full steam ahead to work with whistleblowers on allegations brought to his office. “If I have one regret about last year, it was not standing up our office of public integrity and accountability earlier in my administration,” said Grewal to NBC4NY.

The NJOAG was not reached for comment on this story because they don’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations. The Fulop Administration was not reached for comment on this story because they don’t respond to emails.

Finally, the JC rec dept. has recently been restructured, but not without controversy and concerns regarding potential civil service violations. Read more about that in this Hudson Reporter article.

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