Report: FBI Seeks Past New Bedford Police Union Financial Records
The FBI is investigating the past finances of the New Bedford Police Union, and the agency has asked for several years of records, union president Hank Turgeon told The Standard-Times.
In a separate statement posted to Facebook, Turgeon explained that the union in mid-2019 "experienced circumstances that forced us to change union treasurers" and that "discrepancies" prompted the union's executive board to hire an outside firm to conduct a forensic audit. He said the outside accounting firm is looking at union financial records going back to 2011. Turgeon added that financial records during that window of time were also turned over to "outside law enforcement agencies."
Former police sergeant Joshua Fernandes was union treasurer from around 2011 to 2019, the Standard-Times reports.
Fernandes, who is no longer with the force, was once hailed as a hero. He was one of three city officers who received the George L. Hanna Jr. Memorial Awards for Bravery in 2007 for his response to a shooting at the Foxy Lady strip club on Popes Island. Fernandes was struck in the face by the gunman's bullet as he arrived on the scene. Two people were killed before the gunman took his own life.
Fernandes was arrested in May after he allegedly outfitted his ex-wife's minivan with a GPS tracking device, stole it from the parking lot of a restaurant where she was meeting with a friend, and smashed the van's windows. He was charged with violating a restraining order, two counts of assault and battery (stemming from a prior incident), damage to property, and larceny of a vehicle. Fernandes was terminated by the New Bedford Police Department in October of 2019.
News of the investigation comes as the police union continues its contract negotiations. The union has been working without a contract since 2018.
The union is also currently seeking the ouster of Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro. News of discord between the chief and the union was first aired in September. At that time, Mayor Jon Mitchell issued a statement expressing full confidence in Cordeiro, and Cordeiro made a statement expressing his commitment to the city and decrying union tactics.
The union denies that their public complaints naming Cordeiro have anything to do with contract negotiations. "The two issues are separate from one another and this is just another attempt by the administration to deflect the real issues at hand," a union statement reads.
In recent weeks, the conflict has become more heated. Turgeon sent a letter to Mayor Jon Mitchell accusing Cordeiro of incompetence and mismanagement, and demanding that Mitchell fire the chief if he refuses to resign. On Thursday, the union posted their complaints to Facebook. They reiterated their allegations, accused Mitchell of ignoring their concerns, and appealed to the public to take up their cause.
Mitchell has reissued his September statement asserting that Cordeiro has his full support and is "the right man for the job."
Turgeon and members of the union's executive board met with the mayor on Dec. 20 to demand Cordeiro's resignation. On that same day, union members received an email from Turgeon informing them of the criminal investigation.
Turgeon has declined to comment on Fernandes' performance as former union treasurer, according to the Standard-Times. The FBI, citing agency policy, would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. WBSM has reached out to Turgeon for further comment.
The union hired Manzi & Associates, a private accounting firm, to conduct the forensic audit.