The mayor of Paterson, New Jersey was recently accused of public corruption charges, allegedly involving a bid to provide members of his family with free labor by getting tax payers to pay the workers’ salaries.1 The charges allege that Mayor Jose Torres and three other staff members hired municipal employees to work in a warehouse that had been leased by the mayor’s family.2
Normally, hiring someone to work for family doesn’t sound like such a big problem. But in this case, the arrangement was allegedly carried out at the expense of the tax payers. These alleged acts included conspiring to pay workers for overtime, while exploiting public funds for the benefit of the mayor’s family. The company which was set to benefit from the free labor was known as “Quality Beer”, located in the city of Paterson.3
RKN Global founder, Ronald K. Noble, notes that the use of taxpayer money needs to be tightly and transparently controlled so the public’s money is only ever used in an appropriate way.
What is corruption?
Corruption often involves the abuse of power for private gain.4 It can have many consequences, costing people their money, freedom, and in some cases their lives.5
In addition to the charges being brought against the mayor, three individuals who worked with him were also charged with the same crimes. The mayor, along with Joseph Mania, Imad Mowaswes, and Timothy Hanlon, have face six charges in total:
- Theft by unlawful taking or disposition
- Falsifying or tampering with public records
- Pattern of official misconduct
- Falsifying or tampering with records
- Official misconduct7
Undermining public trust
The mayor’s case highlights issue of a public official misusing a power that was entrusted to him for the public good.
The trust that the public had put in their mayor seems to have been undermined by his alleged behavior. In 2002, Mayor Torres ran an anti-corruption campaign against Martin G. Barnes, who had served as mayor of the city before Torres and had previously been charged with extortion.8 Mayor Torres has in fact been a part of another lawsuit which involved city employees reportedly being paid overtime for carrying out work in his home.9 It seems that the most recent allegations that lawsuit share a common theme: Using public funds to achieve private gains.10
The current charges allege that carpentry, electrical, and painting work had been carried out by municipal employees in 2014 and 2015 at the taxpayers’ expense.11 The warehouse, which is owned by the mayor’s daughter and nephew, is thought to have been used as a distribution facility as part of their wholesale liquor company.12
How to protect yourself from corruption
While we as individuals may not be able to protect ourselves from corruption, whether it’s being carried out by those who work in our government, or the businesses we work for, we can refuse to partake in activities that may not be legal.14 It is important to report anyone engaged in corrupt activity.15
Mayor Torres and his three city employees face up to 10 years in prison for the charges.16 The mayor continues to protest his innocence and says that the charges have left him “extremely disappointed and surprised.”17
Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global urges governments and businesses to work together to combat corruption and foster a culture of integrity.
Corruption affects the lives of millions—even billions– of people all around the globe. While it may be impossible for governments and authorities to fight corruption in “one big sweep”, working on a case by case basis can help.18