Surveillance Video: Did Potential Evidence in Double-Dipping Investigation Walk Out the Door?

Cameras captured the Hingham town engineer removing multiple boxes from the DPW building just hours before being placed on paid leave

Surveillance video the NBC10 Boston Investigators obtained shows the town engineer in Hingham removing boxes from his public office building hours before town leaders placed him on paid administrative leave.

Town security cameras captured Roger Fernandes wheeling out boxes on a dolly on April 30, just hours before an NBC10 Boston investigation detailed allegations of double dipping against the town engineer and his second-in-command, Harry Sylvester.

The surveillance video reveals Fernandes removed boxes and other items during several trips in and out of the Hingham Department of Public Works building. On some occasions, he received moving help from his office assistant, Carol Costello, and another assistant projects engineer, Thomas Molinari.

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Fernandes denied the double dipping allegations when we questioned him back in April, and he did not respond to a recent inquiry about what he removed from the DPW.

As we've previously reported, federal authorities are now probing the case. The U.S. Attorney's Office sent out subpoenas in the wake of our investigation.

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Multiple sources told us FBI agents showed up at the Hingham DPW in August to interview Costello. She did not respond to calls or emails about what was in the boxes. Neither did Molinari, who has since moved on to an engineering job in another community.

A government watchdog told us the surveillance video raises this question: Did potential evidence walk out the door?

"These videos are shocking by virtue of the fact they exist," said Greg Sullivan, former Massachusetts inspector general. "I was an investigator for 20 years. When I see this, I'm horrified."

Time cards and other payroll records we reviewed suggested Fernandes and Sylvester were paid to be two places at the same time: Their full-time jobs in Hingham and a side job for Fernandes' private consulting business in Quincy.

City leaders in Quincy immediately cancelled the contract when they learned of the allegations. Sylvester retired several days before our investigation published. And Hingham town leaders placed Fernandes on paid leave the day after the story aired.

However, on the morning of May 1, Fernandes arrived at the DPW building and removed more items from the office, surveillance video shows.

Sullivan, the former inspector general, says he wonders if the boxes were filled with public records, which he said would be illegal. Another problematic scenario, he explains, would be taking documents from the town engineer's private business.

Along with federal authorities, we reported that investigators with the Massachusetts Inspector General's Office requested a number of documents from Hingham.

Sullivan said the only legitimate explanation would be if the items were personal mementos like family photos.

"That is not what's going on here. This looks like they're doing a warehouse dump," he said. "Anybody who's ever moved out of a business office knows you don't do it with a U-Haul."

Town leaders in Hingham did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails from us over a two-week period regarding the surveillance video and questions about what Fernandes and his co-workers removed from the public building.

So we approached Town Administrator Tom Mayo outside of Town Hall to try to get some answers. It had been four months since he last provided an update, telling us he would conduct a thorough internal investigation of the allegations.

"I have nothing to say," Mayo said. "We're doing an investigation and we'll take appropriate action when we get the results."

Mayo told us his internal investigation is ongoing and there is no timeline for its conclusion. We requested records of any invoices or payments to the private investigative firm hired by Hingham, but the town said it did not have any documents.

The surveillance video shows Mayo arrive at the DPW building on the afternoon of May 1, the day he placed the engineer on paid leave. Minutes later, Fernandes exits the building.

We asked if Mayo had viewed the surveillance video and whether he had any concerns about all the items taken from the DPW.

"When I finish my investigation, I will take appropriate action," Mayo responded. "You can ask me that question 78 different ways and until I'm ready to answer, I do not have an answer."

One of the only questions the town administrator would answer was confirming Fernandes remains on paid leave from his six-figure job, a tab that's now surpassed $53,000.

Sullivan believes that should now change, based on the video evidence.

"He knew that NBC10 Boston was going to broadcast a bombshell report," Sullivan said. "And this is what happened. Except it's all caught on film. Amazing."

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

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