By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Four years after Sunbury received and spent $200,000 on a surveillance system, city officials learned the former policeman hired to coordinate the project was arrested in April on felony theft charges, leaving some leaders unsure of where the video cameras are located, what they are capturing and whether police can view images in real time.
This is not a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
Mayor David Persing said the city did not do a background check before hiring Aaron Nigro, of Greensburg, CEO of Global Security Tactics LLC, who was nabbed April 23 over what he described as a $5,000 street light that was to be used in a camera project.
Nigro claims he was set up by his former business partner. Nigro said he ordered a $500 light, but when he was notified by a local UPS store that his package arrived, he signed for the box even though state troopers at Greensburg said he was not authorized to do so.
Inside the package was a $5,000 light and that was enough to get Nigro charged with a felony theft, he said.
“I was set up by my old business partners,” Nigro said by telephone Friday.
“I was told to go and pick this up and once I saw what it was, I notified the company and said it was the wrong light.
“The next thing I knew I was arrested.”
Nigro was freed on $2,500 unrestricted bail and several weeks later, took the job in Sunbury, he said.
Councilman Todd Snyder said Nigro didn’t tell him about the incident until summer, which would have been at least two months after the arrest.
“I understand he had some sort of issue with his old business partners,” Snyder said.
“All I can say is he has done everything we have asked of him and he has done it a much cheaper cost.”
Nigro said he was paid about $5,000 so far for “living expenses,” but actual copies of statements from Nigro to the city show he has been paid $10,000 since July.
Techie gets $2,500 a month
Nigro is paid $2,500 for “professional services” monthly, city documents show.
Nigro submitted bills to the city for equipment in the amounts of $9,745; $7,398; $2,150; $2,105; and $500; and with the $10,000 “living expenses,” it would make the grand total paid to Nigro $34,398.
Nigro said he hasn’t done anything illegal and will fight the charges Oct. 29 in Westmoreland County Court.
Snyder said he can account for everything that Nigro purchased and the $34,000 came out of the general fund budgeted for in 2012.
Snyder said the city would have spent between $50,000 and $75,000 had Nigro not offered to help.
Nigro bid on the camera project in 2012 and won the 50-camera job for the $200,000 in grants. Snyder then said Nigro was recommended by Mobotix Corp., of Germany.
After being told by Nigro about his arrest, Snyder said he contacted Mobotix to question the company about its dealings with Nigro.
“They said he was the right man for the job,” Snyder said. “He was getting votes of confidence to do the work.”
City Council announced Monday that 47 of the 50 surveillance cameras were strategically placed throughout Sunbury, but Joe Bartello said he is questioning panel colleagues on why he was left in the dark about where the cameras are, who is watching them and how many devices did council vote to purchase.
“The number keeps changing,” Bartello said. “I’d like to see who voted on these and when.”
Cameras from Carney
The surveillance cameras were a gift to the city by then-U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, who secured a $200,000 grant that provided for the use of 200 cameras. Fifty of those were supposed to be stationary devices, and some were to be viewed online by Jan. 1, Snyder originally said.
“How many did we buy?” Bartello asked.
“Things like this need to be discussed and voted on. This is how they do things around here. I guess when (Mayor David) Persing says to vote on something, they all just listen. That might be good enough for Snyder and the rest of them, but not me.”
Snyder took control of the project with Persing’s help and said they searched the best cameras the city could buy with the grants.
“It would be over $10,000 to install these and they didn’t want to put it out for bid so they gave it to who they wanted to,” Bartello said. “So I’m not sure who is doing what here.”
The cameras are operational, and Snyder said Sunbury police are able to access them and view footage. However, there has not been a monitor installed that would let an officer watch all the cameras simultaneously and in real time.