ORANGE, NJ — While the warrant executed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to seize materials and information from the Orange Public Library related to an ongoing investigation on Thursday, July 21, surprised many, a similar warrant served to City Hall on North Day Street on the same day is even more surprising.
According to West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson, city attorney Dan Smith went before the Orange City Council during its executive session on Wednesday, Aug. 3, and asked the governing body for permission to hire an outside attorney specifically to handle the warrant the F.B.I. served on City Hall.
However, it is not certain that such a warrant exists.
According to Johnson, Smith may have intercepted the warrant at City Hall to keep its existence and contents to himself, but city clerk Joyce Lanier said she could not confirm the existence of such a document. When she asked for a copy of the warrant to add to her records, Smith reportedly told her “no,” Johnson said.
“I don’t know if there’s any time frame for them to respond to my request for the subpoenas or search warrants,” said Lanier on Tuesday, Aug. 9. “I don’t legislate anything. I should have a copy of it because I am the official records custodian.”
“For the record, the city clerk is the secretary to the municipal corporation,” continued Lanier. “As secretary, all subpoenas, search as warrants or legal notices should be served on the Clerk’s Office. I have not received any subpoenas on the library, search warrants on the library or any subpoenas or search warrants that were served on City Hall. I am not in receipt of that.”
Lanier did confirm that she wrote a formal letter to Smith requesting copies of any subpoenas, search warrants or legal notices related to the Orange Public Library or City Hall that he may have but that she does not. She said it remains to be seen how Smith and the Warren administration will respond to her letter.
All of which has led Johnson to doubt the warrant’s existence.
“Unless we get a copy of the warrant from somewhere to verify the city was actually served, it may turn out to be a fabricated story by our city attorney,” said Johnson on Monday, Aug. 8. “Maybe, but I think it’s going to backfire. He has been formally asked to produce the warrant by the Clerk’s Office.”
Johnson said that he doesn’t believe a second warrant from the F.B.I. exists for records inside City Hall related to the investigation into the Orange Public Library’s finances. Others are not so quick to doubt that one does exist.
“It doesn’t make sense that they would raid the library for information related to their investigation, including any items, materials or equipment containing suspect financial transactions or dealings, including correspondence or actions in that same vein between that institution and City Hall, without also raiding City Hall, too, since there might be similar records or evidence there as well,” said former Irvington police Chief Michael Chase on Saturday, Aug. 6. “Why would you raid the library, but leave City Hall alone? It also doesn’t make sense that the feds would move on the library one day, then wait for an undetermined amount of time to do the same thing at City Hall, since that would likely only give any suspected wrongdoers time to tamper with evidence or dispose of it altogether. It would defeat the purpose of the search and seizure warrant.”
Chase said it was not surprising that people working in Orange City Hall did not reveal that the F.B.I. had staged a raid there at about the same time as the one at Orange Public Library. He said most of workers there were appointed by the mayor and would likely be loyal to him.
The Record-Transcript recently acquired a copy of the search and seizure warrant signed by U.S. District Court Judge Leda Dunn Wettre authorizing agents from the F.B.I. to seize materials and information from the Orange Public Library, including computers, files and documents related to an ongoing investigation of that historic landmark institution in the city of Orange Township, on or before Wednesday, July 27.
The search and seizure warrant for Case No. 16-8080 was addressed to “Any authorized law enforcement officer,” and was issued for the specific purpose of collecting “Evidence and instrumentalities of violations of Title 18, United States Code, specifically sections 641, 666, 371, 134, 1349, 1951 and 1956.
Section 641 covers theft of federal government funds; 666 relates to theft and accepting corrupt payments concerning an organization receiving federal funds; 371 is conspiracy to commit theft and accept corrupt payments; 1343 is wire fraud; 1349 conspiracy to commit wire fraud; 1951 is extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to do the same; and 1956 is money laundering. The warrant for evidence related to the “Specified Federal Offenses” included materials “For the period December 1, 2013 to present, 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, Inc.; Strategic Ace Solutions LLC; VH Electrical and Plumbing, LLC; Adams Construction and Demolition Co., Inc.; Willis Edwards III; Tyshammie Cooper; Franklyn Ore; Anthony Carey; Shenandoah Adams and Shane Adams; Vernita Harrell; janitorial and maintenance services at the Library; and the Library’s HVAC system.”
The warrant also covered “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.” It included “Photographs of the HVAC chiller and related HVAC equipment.”
Attempts to contact Lanier for verification of a formal letter from her to Smith and the Warren administration requesting a copy of the warrant were not successful by press time this week. Attempts to contact Smith or someone else in the Warren administration to confirm whether a second F.B.I. warrant had been served on City Hall on Thursday, July 21, were also unsuccessful by press time this week.