WALLINGFORD — What started out as a prank involving a fake security camera has become deeply serious for five Wallingford Electric Division employees who are now facing disciplinary action for their roles in the incident.
Four Electric Division employees – William Vanski, Anthony Delgrego, Gary Corso and Michael Perrelli – all admitted to their role in the prank, according to a report conducted by a Hartford law firm on the incident. The four, along with Will Brown, the chief stock room attendant, all received letters from Electric Division General Manager Tony Buccheri, asking them to attend a meeting regarding their employment.
"The town is considering taking significant personnel action, up to and including termination, for your participation in the conduct that is outlined in the attached report," each letter stated. The men were scheduled to meet with Buccheri on March 20 but those meetings were reportedly postponed. Neither Buccheri nor the five workers returned calls for comment Thursday and Friday.
The roots of the prank reach back a year, to March 2022, when Electric Division line foreman Joe Dwyer brought two security camera shells to Perrelli, who is an attendant in the division’s stock room, according to an investigation conducted by Patrick McHale of Kainen, Escalera and McHale, PC of Hartford, who were enlisted by the Electric Division to compile a report on the incident.
Normally, there would be a security camera in the weatherproof housing, but these were just the shells, according to the report.
Perrelli took the shells from the foreman, who allegedly told Perrelli to put them aside and "someday we could have some fun with them," Perrelli told investigators. The foreman denies saying that, according to the report.
Fast forward to last October, when Perrelli allegedly had a discussion with Delgrego, chief lineman, Vanski, first class lineman and Corso, an apprentice lineman, "about the fact that the Public Works facility didn't have any security cameras," according to the report.
When Perrelli brought up the surplus camera shells, the four hatched a plan to install one on a pole outside the Public Works building to make it appear that a security camera was monitoring the building, according to the report. The four wanted to "have some fun" with Public Works Superintendent Steve Palermo, the report says. Vanski, Delgrego and Corso worked with Palermo prior to taking positions with the Electric Division, according to the report and "knew Palermo to be someone who liked to pull practical jokes," though he "became more serious" upon becoming a manager.
Vanski and Delgrego took one of the camera shells and "doctored it up" to make it appear to contain a security camera, according to the report. While all four men were present when they worked on the camera shell, Corso voiced concerns, saying he "wanted no part of the prank" because he was still on probation, according to the report. But a short time later, Vanski persuaded Corso to take him to the Public Works facility on Town Farm Road when both were in a bucket truck so Vanski could install the camera on an electric pole outside the front gate. When Corso protested, Vanski said he would "take the fall for it," according to the report.
It only took a few minutes for Vanski to install the camera shell on the pole, and use a wire coming from the box to make it look like it was hooked up, according to the report.
Vanski then told Perrelli and Delgrego about it, and Perrelli then told Will Brown, the chief stock attendant, about the prank.
About two months later, a Public Works employee noticed the "camera" and reported it to Palermo the first week of January. Palermo notified Public Works Director Rob Baltramaitis. Both Palermo and Baltramaitis inspected the camera shell and said it appeared to contain a working camera.
Baltramaitis also did not return a call for comment.
Palermo checked with nearby Parker Farms School to see if it was put up for school use and learned it wasn't, according to the report.
Public Works employees "became agitated" after the discovery, according to the report, and "there were rumors that various representatives of the town may have been secretly monitoring them," including Palermo and Buccheri.
Palermo contacted Buccheri and told him about the camera. Buccheri said a permit would be necessary to install it unless it was installed by a government agency such as the FBI or the DEA, and that he would look into it. Police Chief John Ventura also told Buccheri his department would investigate. Ventura could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.
"Palermo was dumbfounded about who would install the camera and for what purpose," the report says. "Baltramaitis was angry because the presence of the camera got employees in his department upset and some of them felt management was spying on them."
The camera shell was removed and bagged as evidence and brought to the police department, according to the report. Dwyer recognized the item as the casing he had brought to the stockroom, but the investigation found that he was not involved in the prank, according to the report, and that he had no knowledge of the installation of the housing on the electric pole.
Director of Public Utilities Richard Hendershot and Public Utilities Commission Chairman Robert Beaumont could not be reached for comment, and a message left with the law firm of Kainen, Escalera and McHale, PC of Hartford was not returned.
Mayor William Dickinson Jr. on Friday called the situation “unfortunate.”
“Certainly short of hearing explanations from the individuals involved, if it occurred the way it did, I think it certainly reflects very poorly on them and the department they work for,” he said. “We take these things very seriously and we will move to a conclusion. We expect all employees to be dutifully performing the activities related to their employment and nothing else.”