$200,000 Camera Grant Flushed Away!
How do you lose $200,000 in federal grant money? Quite simple really. Give it to Captain Persing and the rest of the jolly crew at the good ship Sunbury to fund a controversial new security camera system. Yes, the money has been flushed away. The City is now the proud owner of 52 cameras which can’t see in the dark, and for which they would seem to have neither the IP addresses nor the combinations to the locks on the networking boxes, and the guy who does have this information, and on whom nobody bothered to carry out a background check, is facing a double felony 3 count at Westmoreland County Court.
It is hardly surprising, given the above, that Persing does not want to talk about it. Former Sunbury resident Drake Saxton informed the City Meeting of March 10th 2014 that he had submitted multiple right to know requests in an effort to establish both the present status of the project and also receive confirmation that full consideration had been given to the interests both of local citizens and also those of the federal taxpayers, whose money had been used to provide the $200,000 grant back in 2009. The fact that he had not received satisfactory replies to his inquiries he found disconcerting, and a clear reflection of the way in which our city is currently being managed.
In a nutshell, he was trying to discover who, if anyone, was in charge of this project, how efficiently the camera installations had been managed with regards both to best use of resources and also proper placement, whether there had been any checks carried out to insure that the cameras finally installed were in fact the same ones purchased initially by the simple device of checking serial numbers, and also whether there were any unused cameras or other materials, and if so, where they were presently being stored.
Reasonable questions? Most people would think so, but not this City Administration. “No documentation exists”, they claimed. “No, we don’t know where the cameras are located, we don’t know how many cameras are located at any one place, nor if there are locations with multiple cameras.”
It would seem too that serial numbers were unrecorded, making it a real possibility that the City may not have received what it paid for. Were they given new or refurbished cameras, or even old cameras taken off another job by the installer? Could they possibly have colluded in organizing such a scheme?
There were also no documents available showing contracts for camera installation, or any indications that the City had carried out due diligence by undertaking background checks on their preferred vendor and installer, former Pittsburgh police officer Mr. Aaron Nigro.
It is unclear whether “not available” means that no contracts were entered into, or perhaps they simply lost the relevant material, or maybe they just did not want to talk about it. None of these alternatives offer any cause for confidence in the management or current administrative procedures at City Hall, especially in view of the $200,000 in tax dollars which was at stake.
Mr. Saxton has now finally received some documents, detailing invoices from Mr. Nigro for both supply and installation of camera systems, as well as the types of cameras purchased through him from Mobotix in Germany.
The City appears to have purchased a total of 52 cameras along with networking and other equipment, in bills totaling $215,128.11. In addition they have paid out up to October 2013 a total of $12,500.00 for “professional services” to cover Mr. Nigro’s time and personal expenses for installing the equipment in unspecified locations around Sunbury, many of which appear to be in areas of low or no crime.
These payments were illegal – a vote by city members at a public meeting is required for any payments exceeding $10,000 in total – we have no record of any such vote ever taking place. Mr. Nigro is still regularly seen around City Hall as he continues to work on this contract, but we do not yet have any data on his remuneration since October 2013.
Aaron Nigro, Man of Mystery
This week, Not The Item decided to boldly go where no-one from the Persing Administration had gone before – to visit the oracle at Google and run a check on the mysterious Mr. Nigro – the man trusted with the installation and commissioning of the Sunbury Camera system.
Nigro is listed as CEO of Global Security Tactics, LLC , of Carlisle, and formerly as CEO of Genesis Security Integrations of Pittsburgh, which according to its Facebook page was founded to offer cities, schools and other government entities the complete package for consulting, deploying, and managing their IT & surveillance systems.
March 2008: Newville Borough Council suspended part-time police Officer Aaron Nigro without pay pending resolution of a theft charge filed against him by state police. Nigro, also a state constable, was the police force’s community service officer stationed at Big Spring High School. State police had charged Nigro, 27, of South Middleton Township, with theft of services, claiming he jumped out of a taxi in Carlisle to avoid paying a $5.60 fare.
February 2009: Nigro was convicted by a Cumberland County Court jury on a charge of official oppression for his actions after a March traffic accident near Newville. Duane Kough of Newville said that when he rear-ended Nigro’s truck Nigro handcuffed him, kicked his feet from under him and fingered his pistol while making a veiled threat. Nigro had no authority to enforce the state vehicle code, police said.
June 2009: Pennsylvania State Police said Aaron Nigro repeatedly banged on the door and rang the doorbell of his girlfriend’s home near Carlisle on Saturday night. The 28-year-old Nigro was already on probation from a previous offense, and the subject of a lawsuit by a Cumberland County woman who says he pointed a gun at her and yanked her hair when he showed up to collect court fines in 2006.
March 2010: Nigro was sued by a Perry County man who claimed he shot at his truck without justification after Nigro accused him of being drunk. The man wasn’t hurt and court records show he served a prison term after pleading guilty to drunken driving and endangerment charges. Nigro wasn’t charged in the incident.
April 2013: Nigro was arrested by state police on felony theft charges. Claiming he had been set up by his former business partner, Nigro was freed on $2500 unrestricted bail. He is due to stand trial at Westmoreland County Court on May 5th of this year on felony 3 counts of theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception.
Cameras Can’t See in the Dark!
From the camera invoice paid by the City, it is very clear that none of the fixed cameras purchased have night vision capabilities. A total of 38 Mobotix M12 cameras model SEC were purchased. This camera is for daytime use only. Obviously the Mayor firmly believes that local criminals are afraid of the dark and only operate between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
When questioned at a previous City meeting by Mr. Saxton, Persing is on record as having clearly stated that they had some daylight cameras and some with night vision, as “not every location they were using needed night vision”. Really, Mr. Mayor? It would be interesting to know which areas he was referring to – perhaps the cameras mounted on the gazebo at the Riverfront, or those monitoring the walkways behind the pumping stations, or even the ones above the entrance to the ice rink.
According to the Daily Item, the police have no direct access to camera feeds. It is not clear at this time if anyone, apart from Mr. Nigro, has access to these feeds and control of the system.
The cameras were of no use in the pursuit of the Craig’s List Killers and no use in solving the recent spate of burglaries around the Market Street area. However, they did catch a Herndon motorist who hit one of Jim Eister’s trees on Front Street and who took off without reporting the incident, so we guess that covers it. The $600,000 Parks Department budget is safe, so who cares about catching criminals or protecting from harm the people of Sunbury?