By: Richard L. Smith
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) made a significant announcement today regarding criminal charges filed against Salvatore Bonaccorso, the longstanding Mayor of Clark Township.The charges allege that Bonaccorso engaged in deceptive practices, including the submission of false and fraudulent paperwork to nearly two dozen municipalities, in connection with his landscaping company's unauthorized removal of underground storage tanks (USTs).
In addition to the allegations of submitting false paperwork, Bonaccorso, 63, of Clark, New Jersey, now faces charges of official misconduct.
An investigation by the OPIA Corruption Bureau revealed that while serving as the Mayor, Bonaccorso allegedly conducted his tank-removal business from his township office, utilizing municipal resources.
This included storing and managing business records in the Mayor's office, using township-owned devices such as computers and fax machines, and directing township employees to perform tasks while on municipal payroll, all to support his private business operations.
During the course of the investigation, OPIA uncovered that Bonaccorso and his company, Bonaccorso & Son LLC, purportedly used an engineer's name and license number and, in many instances, forged the engineer's signature on permit applications submitted to municipalities for tank removals.These submissions falsely indicated that the engineer was overseeing the removal work, as mandated by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regulations. It is alleged that neither Bonaccorso nor his company possessed the required underground-storage-tank-removal license for such work.
New Jersey law stipulates that individuals must be certified or work under the immediate, on-site supervision of a certified individual when dealing with unregulated heating oil tank systems. NJDEP rules dictate that any tank removal or abandonment must be conducted by a contractor certified for underground storage tank closure, working for a closure-certified underground storage tank firm.
Furthermore, the investigation revealed that Bonaccorso arranged for the engineer to obtain a UST license and insurance and directly paid for their maintenance.
The fraudulent permits submitted by Bonaccorso between 2017 and 2023 were associated with removal jobs totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Additionally, Bonaccorso faces a charge of witness tampering, accused of instructing a witness to provide false information during interviews with state investigators once he became aware of the investigation.
Attorney General Platkin emphasized, "Any elected leader who abuses his power and position and misuses public property and public employees for his own benefit, at taxpayers' expense, betrays the public's trust. In this instance, the complaint charges that the defendant also abused the trust of officials in other towns, allegedly submitting fraudulent documents with forged signatures to enrich his company while circumventing New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regulations."
Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director of OPIA, remarked, "Our complaint alleges the Mayor was committing criminal acts for many years to enable his company to offer services it was not authorized or permitted to perform.
The people's faith and confidence in government is eroded when public officials act improperly, and my office will continue its diligent work to root out corruption."Bonaccorso faces several charges, including official misconduct (2nd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), witness tampering (3rd degree), forgery (4th degree), and falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree).