NJ Town Spent Thousands on Wardrobe for Public Works Chief

What to Know

  • The Bogota Borough Council voted to pay the DPW Superintendent $2,000 to buy clothes in 2013 and '14, and his wife signed off on the payment

  • An ex-council member voted in favor of the allowance because he was misled into believing the boss' employment contract required the payment

  • The chief's wife says she wasnt even in the room when the clothing allowance was voted on, and signing purchase orders was routine

In Bogota, New Jersey, Public Works employees have tough jobs. They pick up the trash, manicure parks, and clear the snow. In short, they get dirty.

But the head of the Department, DPW Superintendent Gordon Kohles, has enjoyed a perk that helps keep his wardrobe neat and clean.

A taxpayer funded clothing allowance.

The Bogota Borough Council voted to pay Kohles $2,000 to buy clothes in 2013 and 2014. The official purchase order shows the DPW chiefs wife, Lisa Kohles, signed off on the payment to her husband.

“You had a wife signing off on public funds to be paid to her husband. Thats just not a good thing,” said Jorge Nunez, a former Borough Council Member who is critical of the way the clothing allowance was handled.

Back in 2014, Nunez voted in favor of the clothing allowance, but he now says his approval came only after he was misled into believing Gordon Kohles employment contract required the payment. Lisa Kohles, who was then the Borough Council Finance Chair, recused herself from the clothing allowance vote, but Nunez says she took part in discussions seeking to persuade other lawmakers.

“I thought it was problematic that his wife, who was a Councilperson at the time, was participating in these conversations."

Christina Koch/NASA

Kohles says she wasnt even in the room when the clothing allowance was voted on, and signing purchase orders — like the one she signed for her husband — was nothing more than a routine duty.

“Im doing what I was expected to be doing as a Finance Chair – signing purchase orders. I didnt vote on anything that pertained or had any benefit to [my husband],” Kohles told the I-Team.

Earlier this year, New Jerseys Local Finance Board issued a notice of violation to Lisa Kohles, stating that “her approval of municipal payment vouchers for her husband as the Borough of Bogota Supervisor of the Department of Public Works; and her participation in meetings and discussions (both open and closed sessions) concerning the Department of Pubilc Works. .. constitutes the use or attempted use of her official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for herself or others.”

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Kohles insists her political opponents, including Nunez, filed the ethics charges in an effort to damage her reputation. She said she is appealing the violation notice.

In 2011, the New Jersey State Comptroller issued a report that found the state paid more than $4.8 million on clothing allowances for white collar workers. Authors of the report recommended New Jersey state agencies “eliminate the clothing allowance benefit for those employees who are not required to wear uniforms or other special clothing.”

Its not clear whether Gordon Kohles is the only Bogota official who has gotten a tax-funded clothing allowance.

The I-Team left phone messages and an email for Joseph Scarpa, the towns Borough Administrator. So far, he has not responded to Read More – Source

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