The Massachusetts watchdog agency charged with investigating waste and abuse of taxpayer money is taking a close look at double-dipping allegations in Hingham, according to a document the NBC10 Boston Investigators obtained.
The Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General sent the Town of Hingham a document request in May, asking for a list of payroll and other financial records.
The IG's request came in the wake of our investigation, which uncovered evidence that appeared to show two high-ranking employees being paid to be two places at the same time.
Time-stamped photos depicted Town Engineer Roger Fernandes and his assistant engineer, Harry Sylvester, working in Quincy for Fernandes' private consulting company in 2018 during hours they would normally be on the clock for their full-time government 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.
The IG's request asked for all of Sylvester's and Fernandes' personnel files, submitted time sheets and other payroll information.
Sylvester retired days before the published report and never responded to our questions about the allegations.
Fernandes denied any wrongdoing when we approached him outside the Department of Public Works in April. Town leaders placed him on paid administrative leave the day after the investigation aired.
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When asked if Fernandes is still on paid leave, Assistant Town Administrator Michelle Monsegur said, "We do not have any updates about his employment status."
That means the town engineer, who earns a salary of about $130,000, has collected roughly $23,000 to stay at home since May 1. According to his contract, he also receives an $800 monthly vehicle allowance and was due an annual raise on July 1.
We obtained the IG's document after appealing to the Secretary of State when Hingham town leaders failed to respond to our public records request in 10 business days, as required by law.
It is the third time we've had to request the assistance of the state's public records division to get documents, including when we had already paid $300 for Hingham payroll time sheets and other records, but had not received them.
The IG's Office also wants to know whether Fernandes and Sylvester ever requested approval from their bosses to work the side jobs. Town Administrator Tom Mayo previously told us he was unaware Fernandes had the private consulting company until we started asking questions.
Records show Fernandes filed an ethics disclosure about his outside arrangement with Sylvester in December, shortly after our initial public records request.
Finally, the IG's Office wants to know more about the town leaders' decision to hire a private firm to investigate the double-dipping allegations. As we reported in June, that probe can cost taxpayers up to $300 per hour.
On Monday, town leaders did not answer questions about whether they are cooperating with the IG's investigation and would only say the private probe is "ongoing and we will not have anything to report until it is concluded."
There is also federal interest in the controversy. As we reported in June, the U.S. Attorney's Office sent out subpoenas for documents that could potentially be presented to a criminal grand jury.
The City of Quincy also received a federal subpoena and the document request from the IG. City leaders cancelled the consulting contract with Fernandes' private company shortly after we first start raising questions about the appearance of double dipping.