A secret police investigation of Haverhill’s Department of Public Works appears to zero in on undisclosed “allegations” against its highway superintendent.
A heavily blacked out—or “redacted”—copy of the 83-page report was turned over to 97.9 WHAV FM Friday afternoon after the radio station largely won its state appeal to obtain the information. The report, written by Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro last Nov. 9, reveals Highway Superintendent Brian J. Zaniboni at least initially refused to cooperate with police.
“…Zaniboni contacted me by phone to state that he had a discussion this weekend with the mayor and his attorney. He has decided after speaking with them not to cooperate with this investigation,” DeNaro wrote about a planned interview Oct. 1.
The report is dated a week after WHAV first asked for a copy near the end of October. It is unclear whether an earlier version existed before Nov. 9. The city’s outside lawyer previously gave the impression the report focused on the drug-related arrests of two DPW workers and a former worker last August. However, the investigation is far more broad-based, touching on sloppy city construction work, abuse of sick leave, nepotism and the undisclosed allegation against Zaniboni.
In response to the state-ordered release of the police investigation, Fiorentini said Friday he has ordered “a complete management review” of the DPW by an outside company. Proposals are set to be evaluated by next month.
Zaniboni joined the DPW during the fall of 2017 at a salary range of between $75 and $90,000 annually. At the time, the mayor said Zaniboni previously served as the director of the Newton, Mass., Highway Department and has 25 years of private construction and development experience.
Last August’s arrests of DPW employees Steven Allen and Erik Frasca along with former city worker Kevin Moriarty was spurred by anonymous complaints. The first was received last March 29 by the city’s human resources department, while the other was received Aug. 14 by Mayor James J. Fiorentini. In an Aug. 31 email to DPW Director Michael K. Stankovich, the mayor asked for an investigation of non-drug-dealing accusations. He told Stankovich police were assigned only to review criminal aspects. “There are a number of allegations about Brian Zaniboni in the letter,” Fiorentini wrote, asking for a report within two weeks. A week later, though, DeNaro took over both the criminal and non-criminal investigations. Meanwhile, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. sent the complaints to the state inspector general for review.
One of the letters names Zaniboni, two other individuals whose names are blocked out and Frasca. “Erik allowed his drug dealer to dump brush at the city garage four separate times,” according to one claim. It also suggested an “unsafe atmosphere and work” related to Frasca and separately complained, “nepotism reeks.” While much of the remainder of the letter is blacked out, the author asks, “Brian Zaniboni—who thought he was appropriate choice for Haverhill?”
“Maybe, just maybe, you can rid Haverhill Public Works of its corruption and its nepotism before another scandal erupts,” the anonymous writer concludes.
Police interviewed 16 people, but only Frasca and Zaniboni are identified by name. Zaniboni appears to have later given some information by telephone to DeNaro. The interviews revealed concerns about construction of a catch basin on Mill Street and a sidewalk on Highland Avenue. The subject, whose name is blacked out, said the sidewalk “crew had no experience working with concrete and received no training.”
A review of sick leave hours suggests one DPW employee had used more than two full weeks of sick time during a nine-month period.
In concluding the report, DeNaro said the police would refrain from making management recommendations. However, he said, “We as a city have always expected and demanded more from our administrators. Being held to a higher standard than our subordinates is a core management expectation.”
WHAV plans to file an objection to the level of redactions in the city-released report. Among WHAV’s claims are the large gaps in the report leave important questions about public policy and use of taxpayer money unanswered.