The city’s former information technology specialist, Patrick Ricciardi, was arrested last November after the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged that he allegedly kept a file of City Hall e-mails and leaked them to other officials in town, possibly giving out sensitive information that could affect politics or union negotiations.
Ricciardi was questioned in May of 2011, but his situation only became public after his arrest and arraignment in November of that year.
At the time, the FBI said that Ricciardi had forwarded the mayor’s e-mails to at least one current city official and one former city official.
Ricciardi had worked for the city since 1992, and was kept on after Mayor Dawn Zimmer took office in 2009.
According to the complaint from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Ricciardi admitted to the FBI that he created an archive file containing e-mails that had been sent to the mayor and two high-ranking mayoral aides. He then allegedly slipped some of those e-mails to two officials.
The investigation is continuing, but little has been made public since November.
Matthew Reilly, deputy public affairs officer for the United States Attorney’s office, district of New Jersey, said last week that the case is still ongoing. “We’re still investigating,” he said, but declined to comment on any other details of the matter.
City spokesperson Juan Melli said he had no knowledge of anyone receiving subpoenas in City Hall in the months since the investigation became public.
“I don’t know of any subpoenas,” Melli said. “I haven’t heard of anything like that. I haven’t heard of anything [related to the case] in a long time.”
“If they are doing an investigation, we don’t want to interfere with it either way,” Melli added.
The FBI became aware of the situation after Zimmer’s administration became suspicious of information that was apparently leaked to others. City Hall then conducted an internal security audit in early 2011, which revealed the suspicious files in Riccardi’s computer, according to the FBI complaint. City Hall notified the Bureau of the situation. The FBI removed information in May of 2011 from Ricciardi’s office and padlocked his office door.
The federal government’s complaint described the two officials who received the e-mails as “a City municipal official” and “a former City municipal official.” The complaint says that the e-mails were forwarded to those officials’ e-mail accounts at those officials’ request.
The documents also refer to a third unnamed “City municipal employee” who saw the leaked e-mails and brought hard copies to the attention of certain Mayor’s Office employees around Feb. 1 of last year. Sources believe that this official still works in City Hall and is not being investigated because he was the one who brought the matter to light.
Sources have suggested that the current and the former official who are being investigated are or were members of one of the city’s public safety departments (police and fire), and that information in the e-mails may have been used to their advantage during ongoing union negotiations.
However, Melli and Public Safety Director Jon Tooke both declined to comment.
The FBI complaint said, “Defendant Ricciardi created the Archive File, and then directed the Intercepted E-Mails to the Archive File, so that he could ‘spy’ on the Mayor and the Mayor’s Office Employees, and determine whether his job was secure. Defendant Ricciardi forwarded certain Intercepted E-Mails to Individual 1 and Individual 2 at the request of Individual 1 and Individual 2.”
The FBI complaint referred to Hoboken’s heated political climate by saying that there is vocal opposition to the current administration: “The investigation has also revealed that many of the elected and appointed officials in the City retain strong ties to the previous administration or are otherwise politically opposed to the Mayor, and have sparred with the current Mayor on a variety of municipal issues, large and small. These officials include several members of the City Council, as well as high-ranking employees of different City municipal agencies, such as Public Safety Department, the Fire Department, and the OEM.”
When asked if the administration is concerned that at least one of the officials may still be involved in city business, Melli declined to comment.
Ricciardi could not be reached for comment, and Hoboken Fire Chief Richard Blohm did not return requests for comment.
Within the department
John Cummins, another employee in the city’s IT department, was also named in the complaint for allegedly confessing last May to intercepting and forwarding the emails. However, the complaint states that Ricciardi later admitted to the charges, and said Cummins had falsely confessed because of a friendship shared between the two.
Melli said last week that Cummins was terminated last year. He also said that the city has since hired Premier Technology Solutions to provide information technology services.
Cummins declined to comment when reached last week.
The Reporter filed an Open Public Records Act request in November seeking to obtain exactly what the FBI seized during the May 26 raid.
Forty-five DVD’s were taken from City Hall by the agents, according to the inventory sheet. The agents also took five CDs, including one labeled “My Stuff.” The agents seized a Galaxy Tablet and six cell phones (three Blackberrys and three Sprint phones).
Four laptops, six service tags, and 35 hard drives were also removed from the Information Technology office, according to the inventory sheet.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.