NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters learned about a town where a pair of vehicles valued at roughly $10,000 sold for 100 bucks- without any public bid- to a police officer in that same town.
There have been three recent investigations in Rocky Hill that include these vehicles. To this day, there remains confusion on how their ownership was transferred. Rocky Hill police officer Tony Miceli paid Rocky Hill in 2011 for a Humvee with less than 19,000 miles on it that needed new brakes and a battery. He also got a tractor truck not in running condition. There’s no bill of sale for that vehicle.
The Humvee was a fire department brush truck. The tractor truck is barely used. A warehouse record from the 1990’s indicates the town paid the state $15,000 for the Humvee. An appraisal more recently valued it at $9000. During Rocky Hill’s internal affairs investigation of Miceli last year, he said he flipped the tractor truck for $1500.
The sale of the Humvee, renovated and now in Miceli’s driveway, became part of separate state, and FBI investigations two years ago when the town requested the agencies review possible violations involving “stewardship and distribution of public funds and public assets.”
Town councilor Henry Vasel was mayor when the FBI and state investigations were launched. Both concluded without any charges, but Vasel said Democrats now in power on the town council have shared little, “What the status is at this time I don't know because as the minority leader I've asked repeatedly for updates and I've received nothing.”
The only other elected leader uttering a word about the vehicles is Democratic deputy mayor Joe Kochanek. He said via phone, “you know more about it than I do.”
In February 2011 town council voted to auction off the vehicles. A town employee was told to post an ad.
However, one month earlier, the fire chief emailed then town manager Barbara Gilbert, saying Miceli had come to the fire department to take the Humvee and tractor truck. Miceli denied doing that to the internal affairs investigator. Neither Miceli nor the chief will comment, but the FBI report reveals the chief told agents he thought to himself “This thing stinks”, and said he was told by Gilbert to, “let it go.” She denies she said this, and told the chief not to give Miceli the vehicles.
In August 2011 Gilbert signed a $100 bill of sale for the Humvee to Miceli. Via phone she said a town employee misled her into believing Miceli made the only bid in a silent auction, when in fact, no auction ever took place. That employee told the internal affairs investigator he does not recall a conversation about the Miceli transaction with Gilbert, and he never auctioned off the vehicles. He would not talk with NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
The vehicles played a role in Miceli’s firing last year following his internal affairs investigation. It concluded his statements he bought the vehicles for $50 each in a town auction didn’t add up. Meanwhile Miceli’s attorney tells us ”Officer Miceli has filed a wrongful termination case," alleging systemic discrimination, a hostile work environment, and dubious allegations against him.
Quinnipiac law professor John Thomas reviewed the report on Miceli’s internal affairs investigation, in particular the vehicle transactions. He said, “At the very least it looks to me like extreme disorganization that is probably way too charitable."
One town leader told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters it is possible Rocky Hill may still try to recover these funds.