Mitchell: Police Chief, District Attorney Monitoring Lumber Inquiry
Although he still says he sees no evidence of a crime in the ongoing investigation into the missing lumber meant for the schooner Ernestina, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell says law enforcement is now monitoring the situation.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mitchell said that Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro has been "eyeballing" what has been discovered in the investigation being conducted by City Personnel Director Sandra Vezina and that the Bristol County District Attorney's Office has been apprised as well.
"The chief has met with Sandy, and he's looked at what she has uncovered. And he did that at my request," Mitchell said. "My understanding is he's approached the District Attorney, and that's where it is right now. And again, at my request."
Mitchell said that Vezina has conducted over a dozen interviews and is going through "literally over a million emails" as part of her inquiry.
"It's on the front burner," he said. "I asked her to make it a priority, and she's working away at it."
When asked by host Barry Richard if he knows who the person is that apologized to the Ernestina commission, Mitchell said yes.
"I do, but before we start naming names publicly, I want there to be a full vetting," he said.
When asked if he knew who gave the lumber away, the mayor responded with a "yes."
Richard then asked if the person who apologized and the person who took the lumber are one and the same.
"Not necessarily, no," Mitchell replied, before later affirming that the person who took the lumber was not a City employee.
The mayor also said he did know that the wood was being stored out there because he read it in the newspaper. He said he did not know, however, that it had been given away. He said he's not taking the investigation being conducted by WBSM's Ken Pittman, and now the ensuing inquiry by Vezina, as any kind of personal slight on him or his administration.
"I don't think anybody is saying I personally did anything wrong," he said. "(But) I'm not pleased with what happened. When we've gotten the facts out, we're going to take a look at things and see what kind of corrective actions need to be taken. Look, there was a screw-up. That wood should not have left the City's custody. It belonged to somebody else, and that somebody else did not authorize it being given away."
Mitchell reiterated that he sees no evidence that somebody intended to deprive the Ernestina of the wood for that person's own personal gain.
"I have not observed a scintilla of evidence, that I'm aware of at all, or anybody in City government is at all, that these people were engaged in some kind of criminal behavior, and if they were, I'd be ringing the alarm bells on this thing," he said.