UPDATE: A department head who was fired from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office picked the wrong guys when he tried bribing one former and one current North Jersey mayor, according to a published report.
Omid Bayati, 39, was charged with trying to bribe a senior official at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission to advance his career after taking a job there, state authorities announced Wednesday.
Former Fair Lawn Mayor John Cosgrove, who was appointed to the commission in 2019, later told New Jersey Globe that he was the official.
Cosgrove said he immediately reported an attempt by Bayati to give him a check from a purported political action committee.
He said he followed instructions from investigators and, according to New Jersey Globe, accepted a cash payoff while wearing a wire.
Bayati also tried to bribe current Passaic Mayor Hector Carlos Lora -- but he, too, immediately reported the attempt, the report says.
Lora said there was no question about what to do.
"Ethical boards and officers along with law enforcement agencies are set up to hold us accountable but also for us to turn to whenever there may be doubts regarding any interactions or blatant attempts to violate the law," he told Daily Voice.
"As a direct appointment of our governor I have a responsibility to serve in a way that does not violate the public trust put in us," Lora said. "I’m far from perfect, but I do want to do the right thing for my faith, my family, my city and those who have place their trust in me to serve in public office."The mayor said he was also proud of Cosgrove. Although they'd never spoken about the case, Lora said, "it is extremely encouraging to know we both had immediate and similar responses in rejecting any attempts to be compromised. It fills me with more faith in working with good people who just want to serve the public."
The announcement of Bayati’s arrest didn’t go unnoticed by law enforcement in Bergen County.
Bayati had worked as the director of finance and technology at the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office before then-Sheriff Michael Saudino fired him.
He then leaked a secretly-recorded conversation in which Saudino made racist and homophobic remarks about state officials, various sources at the time told Daily Voice.
The recording led to pressure from public officials that forced Saudino to resign.
One of the officials referred to on the recording was state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, a former federal and Bergen County prosecutor.
Grewal announced on Wednesday that investigators from his office and State Police had arrested Bayati on bribery charges.
Bayati thought the payoff would get him “help in procuring promotional opportunities” at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission “and in politics broadly,” Grewal said.
The PVSC is a state agency responsible for managing and regulating the collection and disposal of wastewater generated in a four-county area along the Passaic Valley River Basin, encompassing parts of Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties.
Bayati had worked at its Newark offices, the attorney general said.
Grewal didn’t identify Cosgrove by name but said that the sewerage commission referred the case to his Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) after the official reported it.
An investigation by the corruption bureaus of both the State Police and OPIA produced bribery-related charges against Bayati, who’s being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Samantha Keleher and Law Clerk Samantha Thoma, Grewal said.
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