Westfield School Official Charged With Taking Bribes

TRENTON – The Westfield school district business administrator and board secretary is accused of accepting over $13,000 worth of home improvement work at his residence in exchange for making favorable recommendations for a contractor, the state Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday.

Robert A. Berman, 55, of South Plainfield, was charged with second-degree bribery for allegedly allowing window glass and doors to be installed at his home by Metropolitan Metal Window Company from 2004 to 2008, in return for making written recommendations that the Westfield Board of Education appoint Metropolitan as the district’s “contractor of record,” officials said


“We charge that the business administrator for the Westfield School District accepted expensive home repairs, free of charge, from a company that he repeatedly recommended for a lucrative appointment as the district’s contractor of record,” said New Jersey Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor Taylor.  “We will not tolerate this type of illegal, self-serving conduct by public officials.”

An engineer who oversaw construction projects for three school districts was also charged today with taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks on contracts he recommended that allegedly involved rigged bids and fraudulently inflated costs.

Kenneth Disko, 47, of Mountainside, allegedly orchestrated a series of bid-rigging and kickback schemes from 2001 to 2010 as the contracted engineer or engineer/architect on record for the Westfield, Tinton Falls and Scotch Plains-Fanwood school districts.  He was charged with second-degree making false contract payment claims.

“We allege that this engineer corrupted the contracting process in three school districts where he worked, taking more than $80,000 in kickbacks from contractors who overcharged the districts for school repairs and renovations,” said Attorney General Paula T. Dow.  “These defendants allegedly cheated the taxpayers who fund these districts, as well as the students who might have benefited from the thousands of dollars that were misappropriated.”

Three contractors were charged with making false contract payment claims:

  • John Sangiuliano, 56, of Scotch Plains, co-owner of Metropolitan Metal Window Company;
  • Martin W. Starr, 44, of Cliffwood Beach, owner of Starr Contracting; and
  • Stephen M. Gallagher, 50, of Cliffwood Beach, owner of East Commercial Construction and Tara Construction.

In bidding one contract in the Westfield schools, Disko allegedly told Sangiuliano he would include the replacement of seven windows in the scope of work for the bidding specifications, even though those seven windows had been recently replaced by Sangiuliano. This allegedly enabled Sangiuliano to bid lower than other contractors, knowing he would not have to replace the windows. Sangiuliano was awarded the job.  He allegedly also kept an additional $18,000 in “bid allowances” for unforeseen work that was approved by Disko as the architect/engineer of record.  Sangiuliano, in fact, did not perform any unforeseen or additional work on the project.

The charge against Starr involves contracts worth approximately $39,530 that were awarded to Starr Contracting by the Westfield and Scotch Plains-Fanwood districts.  In 2009 and 2010, Starr allegedly prepared fictitious quotes from legitimate contractors without their permission and submitted them to Disko in order to appear to be the lowest bidder for the contracts.

Authorities allege that Gallagher helped Starr to obtain those contracts in the Westfield and Scotch Plains-Fanwood districts by preparing fraudulent and fictitious quotes and estimates for his own companies and submitting them to Disko as higher bids than those submitted by Starr.  In connection with other contracts that were awarded to Gallagher’s companies in the Westfield and Scotch Plains-Fanwood districts, Gallagher allegedly inflated quotes and the cost of work performed. In return for the inflated contracts, Gallagher allegedly gave cash kickbacks to Disko.

Starr and Gallagher were arrested this morning on complaint-warrants by detectives from the Division of Criminal Justice. They were lodged in the Union County Jail with bail set for each at $50,000.  Disko, Sangiuliano and Berman were charged by complaint-summonses. The charges will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.

Westfield School Official Charged With Taking Bribes

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