Hingham Town Engineer Placed on Leave, Outside Firm Hired to Investigate Double-Dipping Allegations

Town engineer and his employee worked private consulting gig in Quincy, raising questions about whether they were paid to be in two places at once

What to Know

  • With examples, NBC10 Boston Investigators raised questions about whether the public employees got paid for being in two places at once.
  • Sylvester and Fernandes reported working a full shift in Hingham on the same day they also worked at least eight hours in Quincy.
  • "It’s a crime if it can be proven,” said a former Massachusetts Inspector General. “These examples you are showing me are very serious."

The town engineer of Hingham, Massachusetts, is on paid administrative leave, and his second-in-command at the Department of Public Works has filed for retirement, town leaders confirm.

The developments come in the wake of an NBC10 Boston investigation, which uncovered records that appear to show the high-ranking employees were paid to be two places at the same time.

Town Administrator Tom Mayo told NBC10 Boston that Town Engineer Roger Fernandes was placed on paid administrative leave the day after the investigative report aired.

Several days before the report was published, longtime employee Harry Sylvester filed for retirement on April 26.

Mayo also revealed the town is hiring outside firm Matthews & Matthews, LLC to investigate allegations about potential double dipping.

"The investigation will take them where it needs to go," said Mayo, who estimated the probe will take at least a month.

It's unclear how much taxpayers will spend on the outside investigation. Mayo and other town leaders have remained tight-lipped about the ongoing review. NBC10 Boston has submitted a public records request for a copy of the contract.

Alissa Eckert/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Matthews & Matthews, LLC is operated by two former Massachusetts State Police troopers. According to a Linkedin profile of co-founder Frank Matthews, the business is "an investigation, security, and management consulting company supporting government agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations and individuals in civil, criminal and security matters."

The company has a history in Hingham. According to news reports, Hingham hired Matthews & Matthews to figure out who wrote an anonymous letter about candidates for police chief. The price tag for that investigation was $40,000.

The NBC10 Boston investigation started with a tip: Time-stamped photos depicting the Hingham employees working in Quincy for Fernandes' private consulting company in 2018. NBC10 Boston then obtained invoices and payroll time sheets, looking for overlapping dates.

On several occasions, the 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.

When approached outside of the DPW building, Fernandes denied any wrongdoing.

"We would never, ever double dip or hurt this community in any way," he told the NBC10 Boston Investigators.

Sylvester never responded to an NBC10 inquiry.

Within days of reviewing some of the same invoices and payroll documents, Quincy city leaders terminated the consulting contract.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@nbcuni.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect with him Facebook.

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