Recently, the North Bergen Housing Authority fired Director of Security Geoffrey Santini, who had been accused in an NBC News investigative report of spending most of his time on his animal control business, New Jersey Animal Control and Rescue (NJACR), and little time at the federally funded full-time public housing slot. NJACR has contracts with several Hudson County municipalities, including Bayonne, which contracted the company in 2014. North Bergen spokesman Phil Swibinski confirmed the firing.
The NBC report on Feb. 28 also alleged that Santini misused a Housing Authority SUV – to which he had 24-hour access — for personal purposes, including for the animal job and occasionally giving rides to the mayor.
The Housing Authority suspended Santini shortly after the NBC report and began investigating.
At the time, they asked Santini to relinquish the SUV. The police were sent to get the keys.
“North Bergen Housing Authority Executive Director Gerald Sanzari terminated the employment of Director of Security Geoff Santini on March 28, 2018,” Swibinski said, in a statement to the press. “NBHA’s internal investigation into the matter is ongoing and the Housing Authority will also fully cooperate with any inquiries being made by outside agencies.”
Santini did not respond to a voicemail left on his phone for comment on his firing.
NBC’s I-Team spent a five-day period tracking Santini’s movements for their report. They alleged that Santini was only at NBHA headquarters for three hours over those five days. The NBHA has business hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but it wasn’t clear whether Santini has different hours for the security position.
“On April 18 I hope to never say the words ‘animal control’ ever again.” — Bayonne Law Director John Coffey III after the Bayonne City Council voted to temporarily extend the NJACR contract.
Fallout from NBC’s report appears to be affecting contracts between NJACR and municipalities across the region. Following its publishing, the town of Garfield, N.J. rescinded its animal control contract. Bayonne, which contracted NJACR in November of 2014, is expected to decide on a new animal control provider at a city council meeting on April 18, five months after NJACR’s contract expired.
Bayonne issued a request for proposals in late summer of 2017 that dictates a two-year, $90,000 maximum animal control contract, and outlines 11 new requirements. NJACR and the Jersey City-based Liberty Humane Society (LHS) both responded in September, with LHS returning the lowest bid. LHS was Bayonne’s animal control provider prior to 2014.
“On April 18 I hope to never say the words ‘animal control’ ever again,” said Bayonne Law Director John Coffey III after the Bayonne City Council voted to temporarily extend the NJACR contract. The resolution effectively pays the provider for services rendered from the time the contract ended through April 28. “We will be fleshing out who the next provider is going to be. I’m talking to both providers to make sure the city’s interests are protected and the animals’ interests are protected.”
West New York may also consider replacing NJACR after issuing a request for proposals for animal control services last month.
In a statement, Liberty Humane Society Executive Director Irene Borngraeber said, “In regards to these legal developments about Santini, we don’t have any comment to make at this time.” But she added that they may comment down the line.
NBC raised more questions about Santini in follow-up reports. They obtained an expired $26,000-per-year contract with the town of Harrison for animal control, and on it, they said, Santini reportedly listed a Housing Authority property as his own address. That raises questions as to why Santini would allegedly use a federally funded property as his address on a private contract.
NBC said that Santini was earning $81,386 per year as security director. His animal control business collects around $350,000 in tax dollars from active contracts, according to the outlet.
Santini is also a constable in Hudson County and an administrative aide to County Freeholder Anthony Vanieri.
Hannington Dia can be reached at email@example.com