Federal and state investigators are now taking a closer look at double dipping allegations in the Town of Hingham, multiple sources tell the NBC10 Boston Investigators.
The developments come in the wake of an NBC10 Boston investigation, which uncovered records that appear to show two high-ranking employees paid to be two places at the same time.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently asked for many of those same records, sending out subpoenas for documents that, if the case proceeds, could possibly be presented to a criminal grand jury.
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The Massachusetts Inspector General also is requesting documents related to the controversy.
Spokespeople for both agencies would neither confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
In April, the NBC10 Boston Investigators first uncovered the alleged double dipping by Town Engineer Roger Fernandes and his assistant engineer, Harry Sylvester.
Time-stamped photos depict the Hingham employees working in Quincy for Fernandes’ private consulting company in 2018 during hours they would normally be on the clock for their full-time jobs.
On several occasions, town records show Sylvester took a sick day while working for Fernandes’ private company. Those same records also indicate Fernandes reported working a full shift in Hingham on the same day he billed for at least eight hours of consulting work in Quincy
Fernandes was placed on paid administrative leave the day after the investigative report aired. Several days before the report was published, Sylvester filed for retirement.
Fernandes denied any wrongdoing and Sylvester never responded to our requests for comment.
Joe Stigliani, a former Hingham DPW supervisor who worked nearly three decades for the town, had a strong reaction when he first saw the NBC10 Boston investigation.
“I was shocked and outraged,” said Stigliani, who is now retired. “It’s tough as a taxpayer, but it’s also tough as a past employee because I know what it will do to the current employees who are working hard. It certainly doesn’t help morale.”
Stigliani even penned a recent editorial in the Hingham Journal, demanding a strong response from town leaders.
He said he was glad to hear the situation caught the attention of outside agencies.
“I think it’s very important because I think it shows this type of behavior won’t be tolerated,” Stigliani said. “And to not pursue it fully sends the wrong message and does not discourage anyone.”
The news was also a reassuring to long-time Hingham resident Judy Kelley, who helped organize a petition that asks town leaders to save public funds and cancel an agreement with a private investigative firm to look into the matter. Kelley believes the investigation should be left to state authorities.
According to the agreement obtained by NBC10 Boston, the Town of Hingham is paying Matthews & Matthews, LLC $175 per hour for one investigator and $300 per hour for two investigators to look into the allegations.
Kelley said she gathered 180 signatures in a week and plans to present it at the next Board of Selectmen meeting.
“It’s a terrible waste of taxpayer money,” Kelley said. “We want them to take action and not let someone sit on paid leave while they drag their feet with a private investigator.”
Hingham town leaders have not responded to multiple NBC10 Boston requests for comment about the federal and state investigations, along with inquiries about the status of their own internal review.
After first showing Town Administrator Tom Mayo the photos and other evidence in April, NBC10 Boston asked if the situation should be referred to public authorities.
“We’ll take appropriate action,” Mayo said at the time. “We’ll do our review and the State can do what it needs to do.”
The City of Quincy cancelled the consulting contract with Fernandes days after NBC10 Boston first started asking questions.