YONKERS, N.Y. – A top Department of Public Works official has been suspended for a week without pay after a new report found he approved expenses for work that was performed, in part, by his son’s company, city officials announced Friday.
In a report issued this week, Inspector General Kitley Covill said the authorization of work at a flooded city service center in November by Deputy DPW Commissioner Sam Borrelli was “concerning” and said the approval didn’t follow normal protocol.
Early Friday afternoon, Mayor Mike Spano said that although neither the inspector general nor an internal investigation found any illegal action taken, Borelli’s actions “lacked transparency and could create a perception that ethics standards were not being met.”
“We also will review the city's ethics standards to make certain there is no ambiguity in the future,” Spano said in a statement.
In her investigation, Covill found that on Nov. 1, three days after Superstorm Sandy, a water pipe burst at the City of Yonkers Vehicle Service Center on Nepperhan Avenue, flooding the first floor with water and mud.
City workers called various plumbers to address the emergency situation before selecting Peter Grotto to perform the work at an agreed-upon price of nearly $40,000, the report says. Previously, two other plumbers had been unavailable to do the work and a third gave a higher price quote than Grotto, officials noted.
Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry signed off on the repairs in an emergency declaration.
Grotto later submitted, and Borelli approved, a change of work order for an additional $25,000 to replace 50-year-old pipes in the center that had cracked during the storm, Covill said. In the process of completing the repairs, Grotto decided further excavation of the site was needed to determine the extent of the damaged pipes, the report said.
As a result, he brought in SVB Contracting Inc. to perform the work, a company owned by Borelli’s son.
The deputy DPW commissioner told the inspector general he knew his son had been on the job, the report said, but he did not believe that further excavation was necessary as part of the additional work he had signed off on.
In her report, Covill said she recognized it was a case of an “extreme emergency” and that the city was “scrambling” to make repairs in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
However, she suggested that in the future that no city employee approve work to be performed by a relative to “avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”
In addition, she recommended the city use a list of pre-approved plumbers for all emergencies and document price quotes.