Questions swirl about new Hillside BA

HILLSIDE, NJ — Although new Hillside Business Administrator Dwayne Warren has begun his position without incident, many Hillside residents are wondering what’s going on just over the Union County border.

When asked about Warren, Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson told LocalSource in an email that Warren is not the first mayor who has also served as business administrator of Hillside. “Dwayne Warren is not the first BA and mayor for our township,” Garretson told LocalSource. “Our former BA Samson Steinman also served the town.” Steinman is the mayor of Rahway.

As the current mayor of the city of Orange, in Essex County, Warren has found himself in the spotlight due to a recent FBI raid of the city’s library. The raid, which occurred July 21, has some Hillside residents asking questions about why federal agents entered the library with a search and seizure warrant.

LocalSource has obtained a copy of the FBI Search and Seizure warrant executed by the United States District Court, District of New Jersey for the Department of Justice.

Attachment B of the warrant cites “evidence and instrumentalities of violations of Title 18, United States Code” including “theft of federal government funds,” “theft and accepting corrupt payments concerning an organization receiving federal funds,” “conspiracy to commit theft and accept corrupt payments,” “wire fraud,” “conspiracy to commit wire fraud,” “extortion under color of official right, and conspiracy to do the same,” and “money laundering.

As of press time, Warren had not responded to LocalSource’s request for comment.

The FBI warrant asked for the presentation of “documents, records, correspondence, invoices, bills, quotes, estimates, payments, checks and other monetary instruments and transmissions, receipts, requests for proposal, memoranda, diaries, calendars and notes pertaining to, or to or from” Urban Partners LLC; the Saturday literacy program; BHZA Cleaning Services; Strategic Ace Solutions LLC; VH Electrical and Plumbing LLC; Adams Construction and Demolition Co., Inc.; former Orange Deputy Business Administrator Willis Edwards III; Tyshammie Cooper; Franklin Ore; Anthony Carey; Shenandoah Adams and Shane Adams; Vernita Harrell; library janitorial and maintenance services; and the library’s HVAC system. The information requested spans from December 1, 2013 to present.

In February, Edwards was ordered by a superior court judge to pay back $268,750 to the city for the three years that he worked in city hall without the consent of the city council.

The warrant specifically requests “records and items reflecting the financial status of, and receipt of funds by, the Library from December 1, 2013 to present, including: bank statements; cancelled checks; copies of checks; deposit and withdrawal records; monetary and currency transfer receipts, tax forms; income and expense records; grants funds’ applications and payments; payroll and other compensation records; and accounting records or books; and photographs of the HVAC chiller and related HVAC equipment.”

In addition, the order to search for the items stated that federal agents were authorized to “search, copy, image and seize the following items for off-site review any computer or storage medium capable of being used to commit further or store evidence of the Specified Federal Offenses; and any physical keys, encryption devices, dongles and similar physical items that are necessary to gain access to the computer or storage medium.”

Dozens of items were seized, including computers, computer hard drives, bank statements and records, library profit and loan statements, multiple files containing budget, construction and personnel documents, invoices, contracts, checks and paystubs, payroll and financial reports, cash sheets and more.
Hillside residents took to social media in response to Warren’s appointment as Hillside’s business administrator, with many citing concerns about “Essex County politics” infiltrating Hillside.

Although Garretson did not address LocalSource’s inquiry regarding the FBI raid in Orange, she did say in a phone call that she is excited to have Warren on board. “I believe that the B.A. is eminently qualified to serve as our B.A., and I eagerly look forward to to working with him,” said Garretson. “We have someone who was ready on day one, and we are excited about the growth and transformation of Hillside.”