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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
April 15, 1914

Coating Laid at Night to Conceal Shallow Filling, It is Asserted.

Special to The New York Times.

RIVERHEAD, L. I., April 14.—Former employes of the Suffolk Contracting Company who worked on the Patchogue-Coram road and others who observed the building of the road testified to-day against the four officers of the company and the two State Highway Department officials who are on trial here for conspiring to build the road in disregard of specifications.  Supreme Court Justice Kapper presided.

Nicholas Bianco of Medford, a laborer, testified that while he was employed on the road he saw dirt and stones taken from the roadside and used for filling, instead of the broken stone which the specifications called for.  The filling in the bed, he said, varied from three to five inches in depth, where there was any filling at all, and in some places not even the sand and dirt from the gulleys beside the road had been used for filling.

District Attorney Ralph C. Greene had established that a uniform filling of six inches had been called for in the contract.

"I asked the foreman one day," Bianco said, "if he was going to puddle the roadbed and he replied, that he would let the rain do the puddling."

The contract called for the puddling of the entire bed.

Bianco said also that tar had been placed on parts of the roadbed at night when no Inspectors or engineers of the State department were near.  This was done, he declares, so that no one could see what kind of filling was being used.  The tar was placed on cold nights and not protected from the air.

John E. Walker of Medford, another of the laborers on the road, corroborated Bianco about the improper filling.

Thomas Smith, a farmer of Coram, testified that he had written to the State Highway Department about a dangerous curve in the road near his farm, and that when he had told Leigh Roberts, an engineer of the Highway Department and a defendant in the trial, of his letter, Roberts had replied:

"It's a ring, and they are not coming here to whip me like a schoolboy."

Many other witnesses testified to the same effect as these.  Willard N. Baylis, chief counsel for the defense, cross-examined them all sharply, but failed to make any of them contradict their direct testimony.

Joseph A. Curren, Superintendent of Maintenance of the State Highway Department, said before the trial began that John A. Hennessy, whose investigations under the directions of Gov. Sulzer revealed the graft that led to the trial, would not be called as a witness.

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