Update Sept. 18 9 a.m.: Former Chief Code Enforcement Officer Tom Bennett appeared at Tuesday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting in an explosive confrontation.
After a lengthy WBCB investigation, multiple anonymous sources are alleging racketeering among top Falls Township officials including members of the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s like the Russian Mafia,” a source told WBCB, referring to alleged strong-arm tactics. “Everybody knows it.”
Falls Township’s alleged pay-to-play scheme is centered around union labor with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 269 union: If a business wants approval within Falls Township, they must use this union. But if they refuse, plans are intentionally delayed for months and costs rack up, according to sources.
The process for township approval, even by the book, can take a year. People who want to open new businesses must consult contractors, engineers, and lawyers. Any delay is a cost, with some owners being in debt before a single shovel breaks ground.
Multiple sources cited Supervisors Jeffry Dence and Jeff Boraski as members of a specific union, and allegedly main organizers of the scheme. They allegedly demanded Chief Code Enforcement Officer Tom Bennett send Dence and Boraski all commercial permits first, completely unorthodox for their positions.
IBEW 269 operates within Bucks County and Central New Jersey. A list of 269-endorsed candidates from 2015 lists “Jeff Dence-IBEW 269 Member.” Boraski’s own LinkedIn page displays his membership with the union and employment with Carr & Duff.
One business owner, also anonymous, says they refused to use IBEW 269. The supervisors then added unnecessary extras to existing plans, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
They claim IBEW 269 then picketed their home, slandered their family, and threatened physical harm. This delay combined with union dues eventually cost them even more.
“They’re wanna be mobsters,” the owner said. “I have spent upwards of almost a million dollars because of them.”
Then, an IBEW field representative called the owner and wanted to negotiate. The member, identified as James Bayer, said he could remove the unnecessary costs if they used IBEW 269 labor. But the conversation went nowhere because the owner refused to play ball.
Following the call, the owner brought in Carr & Duff to handle high voltage power lines. The owner was aware of their union ties, but not of their connection to Boraski. The Carr & Duff workers allegedly sabotaged the project, leaving the owner without power for several days. They finally turned on the power after the owner paid out thousands of dollars.
A third source, on the condition of anonymity, also spoke with WBCB. They recalled submitting permit applications to the township’s zoning department. Less than an hour and a half later, an IBEW 269 member called the project overseer’s private cell phone.
The source also identified Bayer as the caller. The source believes Bayer got the cell phone number from a permit application, further indicating a connection between the township and IBEW 269.
Bayer allegedly told the third source they would not get any permits unless they went union. But after a back-and-forth process lasting almost two months, the source hired a lawyer and threatened litigation.
The third source noted they had not been harassed since bringing in legal counsel. However, they gave specific examples of other projects that recently experienced similar treatment.
But the alleged corruption does not begin and end with unions. Another source indicates former Chief Code Enforcement Officer Tom Bennett resigned from Falls Township because he refused to go along with Supervisor Dence’s orders. It was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
In Spring of 2019, a home owner made a request of the zoning department, claiming Dence told them they could bypass regulations. The source reports Bennett recognized a safety issue with their pool, and so denied the request.
Dence then reportedly pressured Bennett. But Bennett insisted the pool was unsafe, and if he approved it, a little girl living at the home could be at risk. Bennett was then suspended for two days without pay.
Supervisor Chairman Bob Harvie and Solicitor Lauren Gallagher spoke with WBCB at a supervisor meeting on Aug. 22. While Gallagher seemed unsure if Bennett retired or quit, Harvie clarified.
“Tom resigned. He’s been wanting to move down to South Carolina for a while,” Harvie said, adding Bennett resigned around mid-July. The 16-year supervisor is currently running for Bucks County Commissioner.
Furthermore, when asked about any potential investigation related to the township or zoning, Harvie replied, “We’ve heard nothing.” Gallagher agreed.
But Bennett’s resignation comes with other turnover. Solicitor Michael Clarke was asked not to appear at meetings after making comments about law enforcement earlier this year, while Township Manager Peter Gray will be leaving Oct. 1.
One anonymous source alleged Gray was a “yes man” for Dence. The source reported Gray’s resignation date a week before reports went public.
Recently, several former employees for the township have filed law suits for being fired without just cause, according to the same source. Additionally, two sources separately claimed they made attempts to relay their stories to local publications and even law enforcement several years ago.
WBCB has submitted a Right to Know request to Falls Township to find more information. Multiple attempts to contact Supervisors Jeff Dence and Jeff Boraski, along with Manager Peter Gray and IBEW Rep James Bayer went unreciprocated.
The next Falls Township Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the municipal building on Lincoln Highway.