Three years later, Rebrovich is living in Tennessee on disability retirement. He has expressed his hopes that those involved in the illegal activities and the subsequent cover-up that he uncovered, are punished appropriately. His story first appeared on the Illuziletter website, a locally focused on-line political daily, more than two years ago, but the local mainstream media totally overlooked it until investigations by the FBI, the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, the county comptroller’s office, and the district attorney’s office revealed that there was indeed criminal wrongdoing at the Aurora plant.

According to Rebrovich, Naylon didn’t just illegally use county property, he engaged in the continuous harassment of Rebrovich and other longtime employees. These were employees who had received positive ratings in an evaluation that Rebrovich conducted shortly after Naylon began supervising the Aurora plant.

“He went after everyone who I gave a good rating to,” said Rebrovich. “I have never seen such a hostile work environment in my life. Naylon tried several times to provoke me so he would have an excuse to fire or discipline me.”

Rebrovich reported these problems to the union stewards, who then attempted to contact Lehman on an almost daily basis, according to Rebrovich. Many other Aurora barn workers filed grievances, including Tim Wroble, whose story can be found on the Illuziletter website.

AFSCME local 1095 leader John Orlando confirmed Rebrovich’s claims of rampant harassment in the Aurora garage, and he also confirmed that Swanick was contacted not only by Rebrovich but also by another 1095 member, Ken Genetti.

“Union members are who brought this problem to everyone’s attention first,” said Orlando. He also said that he hadn’t heard of or witnessed any illegal or improper actions at the Aurora garage prior to the appointment of Naylon.

Inefficiency in Action

The harassment charges against Naylon are just a piece of the problem. What happened to the money and equipment, the issues first raised by Rebrovich and local 1095 members, are, of course, at the heart of the matter. County Comptroller Nancy Naples released an audit of the Aurora district in early September, which details serial mismanagement and a lack of accountability at the plant in question, while raising questions about how much further and higher these practices go.

According to Naples’ report on the audit to the Erie County Legislature, there was little if any management and oversight at the Aurora plant. Budgetary, inventory, rental and expenditure controls were virtually non-existent, according to the report. Additionally, payroll irregularities and unapproved overtime were rampant at the Aurora garage, with the two general crew chiefs leading the way.

“In 2002, overtime for Aurora’s general crew chiefs significantly exceeded overtime earned by general crew chiefs at the other four districts,” reads the Naples report. The two Aurora garage chiefs claimed 1,598 overtime hours in 2002, while the seven other chiefs who run the four other plants claimed 2,843 hours. What this means is that the other seven chiefs had an average of 406.14 hours of overtime and $14,378 in pay each while the Aurora garage leaders clocked in for an average 799 hours of overtime for a whopping $27,723 in overtime compensation each. The audit also points out that the Aurora plant “spent more for rented equipment, $452,462 in 2001 and 2002, than the combined spending of the other four highway districts ($247,769), during the three years 2000, 2001, and 2002.” Most of the rentals came from the same company, and the orders were filled without the required paperwork, according to the comptroller’s audit.

Other problems at the Aurora plant aren’t as easy to pin down because documentation is incomplete or non-existent, according to the comptroller’s audit. In fact, lack of paperwork is a serious problem for the highway department. The report concludes with “No formal written policies and procedures were in place to govern the operation of county highway districts, nor (sic) did highway division management have an effective process in place to oversee districts activities.”

Pinning down the perpetrators

Rumors abound about the highway department these days, and many appear unverifiable at this time for two reasons: missing paperwork and the inability or lack of desire on the part of members of Joel Giambra’s administration to offer full disclosure, now that District Attorney Frank Clark has convened a special grand jury to investigate the Aurora plant scandal.

Initial claims that Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan purchased land from Doug Naylon at a cut rate as part of a deal not to pursue allegations against him have been debunked by reporting done by Frank Parlato, Jr., on the Illuziletter. According to Parlato, Clark confirmed he was informed of Gallivan’s land purchase “from the jump start,” and there should be no question of collusion between the sheriff and the main suspect under investigation.

Others caught in the rumor mill are Dale Larson and Jeanne Chase, both Erie County legislators, who allegedly received favors from Naylon while he was still at the Aurora plant. Chase refutes any claim that she received crushed stone for a driveway from anyone working for Erie County, and she invited Alt to visit her property anytime that we wish. Larson, too, denies any impropriety, and he said that claims that he had his driveway and a town or village road paved at county expense are simply untrue. He expressed dismay at the rumors flying around and said that he may have become a convenient target because he chose not to run for office again.

“We live in a glass fishbowl,” said Larson. “I will guarantee not one legislator had one thing done for themselves or any friends. I know in my heart (that) it would never happen in a million years.”

He too invited Alt to examine his property. “There is not much more there that you haven’t read or heard,” said Larson. “At the end of the day, when this is all over, the people who thought they could get away will find out otherwise. Nobody’s going to walk away scot-free.” There is little evidence now that anyone outside the Aurora garage was involved in criminal activities, but this isn’t the only charge assigned to the special grand jury. Clark has publicly confirmed that improper practices, even if they do not amount to criminal misconduct, will be investigated as well. “We anticipate the special grand jury will make inquiry about violations of penal law,” said Clark. “They will also make inquiry into issues of malfeasance that are short of criminal wrongdoing.”

Is There a Cover Up?

It’s this second duty of the special grand jury that points to problems with management in the highway department, the DPW, and higher up in the Giambra administration. To begin with, Lehman stated, “Most of the findings by the comptroller’s office are not a surprise to the Department and have been addressed through the short term.” These short-term actions, outside of the dismissal of some employees, involve little more than memos reminding districts of proper practice as well as an attempt to blame a county-wide computerized accounting system (SAP) for the paperwork problem.

Alt has been unable to obtain a copy of the DPW internal Audit. Attempts to contact Lehman have been unsuccessful. The gatekeeper manning Lehman’s phone line refused to identify herself. She stated, “Ms. Lehman has said that we cannot comment on the Aurora plant as it is under investigation.”

Alt also attempted unsuccessfully to contact Bruce Fisher, Giambra’s chief of staff. Linda Bagley, who answered the phone, said that the office was not free to comment on the Aurora plant scandal. Alt asked Bagley if that was the official statement.

She responded, “No comment. I’m not talking to you, Brendan. Bye.” Then she hung up the phone. Attempts to solicit comment from the comptroller’s office were equally unsuccessful.

One person who was willing to talk was County Legislator David Dale, who pointed out that administration stonewalling and conflicting statements from administration officials over who was called in to investigate and when were reason that a possible cover-up became an issue.

Dale provided Alt with a copy of a resolution that he submitted to request the presence of officials of DPW and other administrative bodies at the County Legislature for an inquiry on the Highway Department. According to Dale, all of the legislature’s Democrats expressed support of his resolution. Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer, chairman of the economic development committee, however, refused to allow the resolution on to the floor. Several letters sent to Ranzenhofer backed up Dale’s statement. Dale provided copies of these letters to Alt.

Dale also said that the DPW internal audit that Lehman referred to was never presented to the Legislature and that he has been unable to obtain a copy.

Living to Exhale

According to Clark, a response to the request to empanel the special grand jury is expected at any day, and the panel of 23 jurors should be picked within a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Joel Giambra claims that he never heard of Paul Rebrovich. He said that he was the first person to call for an investigation. Giambra said that he doesn’t run the Highway Department, he runs Erie County.

Democratic County Executive Candidate Dan Ward has repeatedly called for full disclosure from Giambra. Rebrovich said that he knows of at least three persons who contacted Giambra about the initial problems with Naylon. He added that he has sent an open letter to the county executive but that, of yet, he has not received a response.

AFSCME Local 1095 leader Orlando confirmed that the FBI was investigating the garage prior to September 11, 2001, and that the DPW, the county legislature, and the county executive were all notified, not only of property theft, but also of Naylon’s alleged harassment of several Aurora plant employees.

Meanwhile, Rebrovich waits to see justice served for Erie County residents and for his former co-workers. He has said that he won’t name any new names, but if he is called before the special grand jury, he will provide them with any information he can. “I never registered to vote before I was 49 because I never wanted to owe anyone for my job,” said Rebrovich. “The first person I ever voted for was Joel Giambra. I never gave any money to him. I just voted for him and became a victim of his appointee.” The Aurora Garage

By Brendan Coyne

In December 2000, the Aurora plant’s general crew chief, Paul Rebrovich, contacted the FBI to investigate what he saw as a potentially illegal use of county equipment on the private property of newly appointed District Engineer Doug Naylon. He subsequently notified union stewards and numerous officials in county government, including Department of Public Works (DPW) Commissioner Maria Lehman, County Legislators Chuck Swanick and Dale Larson, the attorney general’s office, the county comptroller’s office, and County Executive Joel Giambra.