Sales Of Scrap Metal Lead To Suspensions In Woodbury City Cash From Fire Hydrants Went To Employees. Water Meters Paid For Christmas Parties.

Posted: June 25, 1992

An investigation of scrap metal sales in the Woodbury City Public Works Department has led to the suspension of the department's top two managers.

Woodbury City Police are investigating allegations that Superintendent Raymond Jack permitted an employee to falsify time sheets and allowed money

from the sale of city property to go to employees.

The City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday to suspend Jack, without pay, with the intention to dismiss him. Jack said that he would request a hearing before the Council next Tuesday.

Jack, 37, denied that he twice permitted an employee to falsify time sheets.

He conceded that he allowed his laborers to keep money from selling outdated fire hydrants to scrap dealers, which he said might amount to about $60 a year per employee.

He said that the practice had gone on for years before he was hired in 1989. Jack previously was superintendent of public works in Gloucester City.

He also said that money from selling old water meters to scrap dealers was saved in an envelope and was used to fund department Christmas parties that were held in the city fire house on Delaware Street. Jack estimated that the parties cost several hundred dollars.

He said about $380 of the money for next year's Christmas party was confiscated from a department desk drawer by police last week.

"I didn't see any problem with it," Jack said of the scrap metal sales. ''These guys are only making $5.50 an hour. The real crime is paying them so low."

Jack, who described the investigation as politically motivated, said that the allegations stemmed from a "personal vendetta" against him by the mayor of Woodbury, Richard Skinner.

Jack said that Skinner had been angered by Jack's refusal to oppose efforts of employees in the 34-person department to form a union eight months ago.

Skinner said the issue was not political. He said the issue was the misuse of public funds and the department's ethics. Skinner said he did not know how much money had been lost.

"Of course money is important, but I think the more important thing is that the action took place and the mentality that allowed it," Skinner said.

City Council President Donald Sanderson said the council learned of the scrap sales last week. He said he did not know if criminal charges would be filed.

"It's an embarrassing situation for the city of Woodbury," Sanderson said. "I think all parties involved will learn from this lesson."

Disciplinary action against two other Public Works Department employees who were not appointed by the council was taken by Administrative Assistant Frederick Bayer last Friday.

Assistant Public Works Superintendent Michael Walsh was suspended for two weeks without pay, and James Beck, a supervisor, was fired, officials said. Walsh and Beck did not return telephone calls from The Inquirer.

Neither Woodbury Police Chief Craig Hoelbinger nor Solicitor Thomas Ward would comment, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.

Gloucester County Prosecutor Harris Cotton said he was aware of the investigation and confident of the abilities of Woodbury police to deal with the matter without his assistance.

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