Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen pleaded guilty Friday to felony and misdemeanor charges for falsifying documents on a November paving project, hours after submitting his resignation to town officials.
Jorgensen, 63, of St. James pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court in Riverhead to a felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing, and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct as part of a plea deal with the Suffolk County district attorney's office.
Prosecutors have said that Jorgensen directed a town employee to alter road construction reports to conceal his approval of Medford-based contractor Suffolk Asphalt Corp. paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November, which did not meet state Department of Transportation standards, and submitted the false information to town officials.
State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen released Jorgensen on his own recognizance. Jorgensen is due back in court on Dec. 11 for sentencing. The plea agreement calls for 4 months in jail or a 560-hour community service alternative.
"The decision today to plead guilty was not an easy one to make," Anthony La Pinta, Jorgensen's Hauppauge-based criminal defense attorney, said after the plea. "But considering a number of factors, including the 43 years of service that Glenn has given to the town, his age and health issues that he is experiencing now, we felt that it would be the best move for himself and his family to enter this plea and for him to move on."
Jorgensen did not address the media. His wife, Kathy, said only that she loved and supported her husband.
Robert Clifford, spokesman for the district attorney's office, said in a statement that the disposition compelled Jorgensen to resign and that his admission of guilt confirmed the facts discovered in the investigation.
"As the Superintendent of Highways, he knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met the mandatory specifications," Clifford said.
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Friday that La Pinta gave the town board Jorgensen's resignation letter.
"I'm terribly sorry for Mr. Jorgensen and his family," Vecchio said of the plea deal.
Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said Deputy Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy will immediately assume Jorgensen's duties.
Murphy, 52, of Nesconset said in an interview, "I look forward to taking on the challenge of Smithtown superintendent of highways, and I believe that we can bring pride back to the department."
Jakubowski said the town board could also fill the vacancy by appointment, and the appointed person would hold office until Dec. 31, 2016. An election will be held in November 2016 for the remainder of Jorgensen's term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2017, Jakubowski added.
In November 2017, an election will take place for the full, four-year highway superintendent term, he said.
Jorgensen was elected highway superintendent in 2009 and re-elected in 2013. His 2015 salary was $96,176, according to the adopted budget. He was responsible for managing the department's budget of more than $25 million -- nearly a quarter of Smithtown's 2015 budget of $104.6 million.
Jorgensen retired from the highway department in 2006 as a maintenance crew leader. He then started receiving a monthly gross pension of $5,449.01, said Nikki Jones, a spokeswoman for the state comptroller's office. The pension is not affected by Jorgensen's conviction.
She said Jorgensen "is not eligible to accrue service credit or entitled to any additional retirement benefit based on his post-retirement employment as Town of Smithtown Highway Superintendent."
Jorgensen, who was initially charged on April 1 in First District Court in Central Islip, also faced three other felony counts -- tampering with public records; falsifying business records; and grand larceny. If convicted on all charges, he faced up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison, district attorney officials had said.
In court Friday, Jorgensen answered "yes" to questions posed by Assistant District Attorney Melisa Bliss, confirming that last November he gave the town engineer a memo and various road construction reports that he knew contained false information. Jorgensen confirmed that around the period of Nov. 18 and Dec. 8, he instructed an employee to put inaccurate information on road construction reports for work performed by Suffolk Asphalt to demonstrate the work was up to standards.
Suffolk Asphalt sued the Town of Smithtown for more than $1.8 million in May, alleging the company had not been paid for work performed -- including on roads cited in Jorgensen's criminal case. Jakubowski on Thursday declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
A June 1 report from Babylon-based engineering consultant Greenman-Pedersen Inc. concluded that four of the roads, which were in Smithtown and St. James, should last their normal eight- to 12-year span, based on pavement core test findings and visual inspections. The inspection and report cost Smithtown $10,000, town officials have said.
Steven G. Pinks, the Hauppauge-based attorney for Suffolk Asphalt, declined to comment on Jorgensen's plea Friday. He said the town has not paid any portion of the $1.8 million at issue in the litigation. But he said Suffolk Asphalt continues to perform milling and asphalt work through separate contracts with the town.