The Authority fired Geoffrey Santini in March after an investigation into a February NBC report alleging he low-showed his job, and used an NBHA-funded vehicle partly for his private animal control business (Santini had animal control contracts with several New Jersey towns). The NBC report came after insiders contacted them with the allegations, according to the show.
However, Santini is alleging in his suit that the Authority had no issue with his use of the vehicle. He also alleges that he spoke out against violations and corruption inside the agency, and then, they took retaliatory measures.
"The position of director of security is an upper management salaried position, not an hourly position, that required Santini to be available at all times of the day and week to supervise and manage his staff," the lawsuit reads, responding to the low-show allegations.
NBC followed Santini around for several days to determine when he was showing up.
The suit also alleges that Authority Director Gerald Sanzari--another defendant--knew Santini was sometimes working at the animal control company.
Santini's lawsuit alleges that Sanzari hired a crony who wasn't eligible to work at the Authority, and other matters. Santini said he repeatedly complained about a tenant living in an NBHA unit. This was because as a government employee, that tenant could not reside in public housing, because he reportedly owned a home on the Jersey Shore, Santini said. When Santini told Sanzari this, Sanzari allegedly "ignored him, or told him that 'This is the way it's always done,' " the suit claims.
He allegedly told Sanzari about another tenant who had various arrests. Under HUD rules, public housing tenants arrested on their property are subject to eviction.
The suit names attorney Mark Tabakin, whom the Authority hired to investigate the NBC report, as another defendant. It alleges Tabakin led a "sham investigation." Tabakin also never bothered interviewing Santini regarding his NBHA employment, the litigation alleges.
Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for the NBHA, fired back in a statement.
"Mr. Santini was terminated after a thorough and wide ranging investigation into his conduct, and we believe firmly that the decision to terminate his employment was justified based on the information discovered," Swibinski said. "The North Bergen Housing Authority denies the allegations being made by Santini in this retaliatory lawsuit and we will vigorously defend against it in court."
Earlier this summer, the housing authority's former director also filed suit.
Housing authorities are publicly-funded authorizes that are technically overseen by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, but are often managed day to day by a paid staff and an unpaid Board of Commissioners, some of whom are political appointees. HUD has, over the years, tried to get out of the business of managing this low-income, affordable, and senior citizen housing, leaving more oversight to local officials.
For a full story on the lawsuit, check upcoming editions of the North Bergen Reporter. If you have more information or comments, post them here or email email@example.com.