Allegations regarding Hingham town engineer Roger Fernandes and assistant town engineer Harry Sylvester found to be true based on town investigation.
Hingham's town engineers collected Hingham sick time pay and used town-issued equipment to do work at a private business, a recent investigation confirmed.
Hingham announced Friday, Sept. 27, that its investigation into allegations regarding town engineer Roger Fernandes and assistant town engineer Harry Sylvester had been concluded.
The investigation found that Fernandes used his town-issued work phone and computer to do work for his private business, BRL Construction. It also found that Sylvester collected sick time pay for his job in Hingham while working in Quincy for Fernandes' private company and that Fernandes had signed off on the town's payroll.
Still, investigators did not say whether Sylvester's use of sick time was inappropriate.
"Roger Fernandes was less than candid or credible in his explanation of how he conducted his private business in relation to his obligations and employment with the town of Hingham," Matthews & Matthews, LLC investigators wrote in its findings. "Specifically investigators question Mr. Fernandes' explanations of his use of Hingham town computers and town issued phone in performing work for his private company [...] given the data related to BRL recovered from his town computer."
Fernandes and Sylvester had been under investigation by the town since early May, when allegations were made about the two "double dipping." They were alleged to have been collecting pay for work in Quincy with Fernandes' private business at the same time they were on the clock for their jobs in Hingham.
Fernandes' resignation became effective at the end of the day Friday.
"I take this action for what I believe to be the best interests of my family, the Town of Hingham and myself," Fernendes said in his statement of resignation. "I look back on my 15 years of service as Town Engineer as a period of great productivity, quality and accomplishment."
Fernandes had been on paid leave since mid-May while the investigation was being conducted. Sylvester retired in April.
Sylvester admitted to investigators that he used 8 hours of Hingham sick time Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, and also worked in Quincy for BRL on that day for 9 hours. Investigators said both Fernandes and Sylvester worked for the company on that day. Fernandes authorized the payroll sheets.
Records showed Sylvester used 8 hours of Hingham sick time on Sept. 17, 2018, and also worked in Quincy for BRL on that day for 8.5 hours. Sylvester told investigators he asked to be put down for vacation leave not sick leave and that there was a clerical error.
Sylvester's own personal journal, which he used to track time and attendance, showed he used 8 hours sick time both days, but the investigation found the clerical error to be true.
Fernandes claimed his hours as Hingham's town engineer were abnormal because he is salaried and it was understood that if he works 60 or 70 hours by Thursday he does not come in on Friday.
However, Fernandes' contract says he has to work the same hours the Hingham Department of Public Works is open.
The investigation found Fernandes worked 9 hours in Quincy one day while getting paid for a full day in Hingham. On four other dates, Fernandes attended meetings in Quincy while being paid a full days work for Hingham.
The town said it did not know that Fernandes started his own private business. Fernandes told investigators that the majority of the work for his company was done during the nighttime or overnight.
Using town equipment
Fernandes at first denied using town equipment for work for his private business. He turned over an erased and reset town iPhone to investigators when the investigation started.
The report said 15.47 GB of data had been purged on Fernandes town equipment between December 2018 and May 2019.
Investigators found Fernandes had generated documents on his town-issued computer and iPhone. The records collected showed clock in and clock out data for Sylvester and Fernandes relating to the private business. Fernandes used an app on his iPhone to export the data.
When shown one BRL file investigators uncovered from a back up off his Hingham computer he said "I did not even know this existed to be honest with you," according to the report.
He claimed the rest of the BRL documents were connected to pro-bono work or generating files requested by Tom Mayo.
Removing boxes from DPW building
Investigators were given stills from video footage of Fernandes, engineering administrator Carol Costello and assistant projects engineer Thomas Molinari removing boxes from the DPW building on April 30 and May 1.
Investigators said they were not able to determine what items and files were removed on those days. The report notes that Fernandes said there were only personal belongings taken, while Costello and Molinaro said they saw files in the boxes.
The investigation found there was no evidence to show that Costello or Molinari were involved in work with BRL Construction.
Catch up on the story:
Hingham town engineer’s resignation to be discussed
Hingham town engineer has been on paid leave for 4 months
Two Hingham engineering employees off the job amid double-dipping probe
Fernandes made more than $138,000 as Hingham’s engineer last year. Earlier this month, Town Administrator Tom Mayo did not answer emails requesting the amount Fernandes had been paid by the town since on leave.
Sylvester made more than $120,000 as assistant engineer last year.
Fernandes had been the town engineer for 15 years and Sylvester had been a town employee for more than 40 years.
The town retained Matthews & Matthews, LLC on May 2, 2019, to look into the allegations of misconduct involving Fernandes and Sylvester. Officials then met with them on May 8. 2019.
Fernandes has been under scrutiny before following allegations outlined in an anonymous letter about his education and qualifications for the job. That letter from 2014 accused Fernandes of resume fraud and lead to a town hearing. Town officials said at the hearing that they were aware at the time of his hiring that Fernandes’ lacked a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and it was not a firm requirement for hiring him. The town considered the matter closed and selectmen voted to dismiss the complaint.
Then Chairwoman Irma Lauter later apologized for the way the matter was handled.