Princeton municipal employee charged with second-degree bribery in illegal dumping scandal (updated)

The Princeton municipal convenience center and sewer department staging facility have been closed since the investigation into allegations of illegal dumping began two weeks ago.

Thomas Hughes, the former supervisor at the town of Princeton’s sewer department facility on River Road, has been charged with bribery in the second degree for allegedly accepting payments “to influence his official duties,” police said Monday.

 Hughes was charged on a summons complaint and released pending future court appearances. His first appearance in Mercer County Superior Court is scheduled for June 27.

The charge results from a joint investigation of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and Princeton Police Department into alleged illegal dumping at the Princeton sewer department facility and convenience center.

Hughes, a resident of Browns Mills, was fired on June 6 after police investigated allegations that he allegedly allowed contractors to dump dirt, asphalt and other materials at the municipal facility on River Road in exchange for cash.

Thomas Hughes

Last week, a top department head was put on paid leave while the investigation into operations at the sewer department continues. The investigation was triggered by inquiries and a story by Planet Princeton three weeks ago.

The complaint against Hughes cites New Jersey Title 2C, section 2C:27-2, which covers bribery in official and political matters. A person is guilty of bribery if he directly or indirectly offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept from another:

a. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or exercise of discretion of a public servant, party official or voter on any public issue or in any public election; or

b. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, vote, recommendation or exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding; or

c. Any benefit as consideration for a violation of an official duty of a public servant or party official; or

d. Any benefit as consideration for the performance of official duties.

“In any prosecution under this section of an actor who offered, conferred or agreed to confer, or who solicited, accepted or agreed to accept a benefit, it is no defense that he did so as a result of conduct by another constituting theft by extortion or coercion or an attempt to commit either of those crimes,” reads the statute. “Any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit offered, conferred, agreed to be conferred, solicited, accepted or agreed to be accepted is of the value of $200 or less, any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the third degree.”

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  1. Wow – by definition of the statute: “If the benefit offered, conferred, agreed to be conferred, solicited, accepted or agreed to be accepted in violation of the New Jersey Statutes is $75,000.00 or more, the offender is guilty of a second degree crime.” Thank you, Krystal, for your investigative reporting. It’s disheartening that Princeton is facing yet another scandal. However, let’s not lump in all the wonderful public employees that serve Princeton: one rotten apple doesn’t taint the whole barrel. Shame on Thomas Hughes.

  2. So one guy had a side business going on using municipal property and resources-private contractors driving in and out of the facility and no one noticed? Where was the oversight? This is why there’s a town administrator- this didn’t happen under Bruschi’s watch because he did his job. Lempert is still MIA as is the council. Taxpayer money and resources (and trust) have been misappropriated- is anyone going to answer for this? Anyone looking out for the the taxpayers? There doesn’t seem to be. Lempert and her cabal need to go. All of them.

  3. Kate Warren, we updated the story with the proper statute, which covers officials. It is a different statute than the one you cite. Thanks.

  4. So who else knew this was happening. There’s more than one rotten apple in the bushel.

  5. How many more knew this was happening and did nothing? What about how many didn’t know this was happening? What is worse? I don’t know anymore. Not knowing and anger as a result are not valid excuses. Knowing and doing nothing is also wrong. Silence is wrong. They need to hire a PR consultant because silence from the ones in charge is “sounding” pretty bad.

  6. Person in charge of staff has to answer on this or else never an ounce of credibility can ever be gained back from residents.

  7. Also, the environmentalists in town are losing credibility. As important as it is to avoid using plastic bags, plastic straws, and to encourage composting, we are facing an actual environmental problem and we have not heard their outrage and comments. Why is that? Is being part of those organisations and committees just an ego thing? Don’t let your good work and good intentions be lost because when the time comes to confront the problems, you are nowhere to be found.

  8. So a supervisor has a group of probably less that 30 people and a principal site used by that group is being used to dump hazardous material from private contractors who are allegedly bribing one of his staff. Supervisor had no knowledge of dumping, use of employees and equipment and could not see dirt piles, debris and millings piles far in excess of work down by town.

  9. Yeah @Lou, a bunch of cameras up there pointing in every direction with the monitors in Bob Hough’s office. He nor any other supervisor can plead ignorance on this one. They are supposedly trained and licensed professionals and get paid as such. He should be fired, lose his pension, and the engineering board of the state should take his P.E. License for this flagrant disregard of his duties. He was supposed to be the watchdog and he was happily sleeping on the job for years if not even directly involved. This is ridiculous and appalling behavior from a licensed professional. I hear now they’re just harassing the lower level employees who are not even privy to any information involving any deals made with outside contractors. When I go fishing, I’m looking for the big fish, not small fry. Cut the head off this embarrassing debacle and get back to work. There really are some great people who work for this town and this tarnishes all of their good work. I’m sure they are as outraged as the rest of us for being in the splatter zone of this mess. Great job Mayor Lempert and Marc Dashield, you’re an inspiration to Democrats everywhere, LOL!!!!!

  10. Going after the small fish for sure. What about the management. No way they didn’t know. Also, hello, what about the dumpers. Will these companies ever face justice? Doubt it.

  11. I live close to this facility. I have heard trucks entering during the night occasionally for the last two years. I drove in there one day and spoke to a worker who assured me that the facility was locked at night. I kept insisting that there was activity during the night. He said he would check on it. I also called the head of the Princeton Sewer Authority who reiterated the same thing. I am glad the illegal dumping was finally found out.

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