Two New York City sanitation workers were each fined $2,000 for violating rules that prevent municipal workers from soliciting and accepting tips after they split a $10 gratuity from a satisfied Queens customer.
The two men, Robert Bracone, a municipal sanitation worker for 26 years, and Rene Torres, a 23-year veteran of the Sanitation Department were punished by the city’s Conflict of Interest Board.
During the incident, a Queens resident placed five bags of household garbage, two bundles of wood, a rug, two bags of recyclables and two wooden boards out to be picked up. As they approached, Torres asked “about the $20 that the resident’s girlfriend said she would leave for me,” according to a signed statement. “The resident informed us that he had only $10. Bracone and I then removed all the waste, after which the resident gave Bracone and me five dollars each,” Torres said. It’s unknown if the tip was ever actually promised.
By accepting the $10, the men violated a statute that bans public servants from “receiving compensation except from the city for performing any official duty.”
As the investigation into the 2011 incident took place, both men chose to retire.
City officials said that workers are well-paid for their efforts and that NYC residents should not feel compelled to offer tips, The New York Daily News reported.
"You are paying for their services through your tax dollars,” said Vito Turso, a spokesman for the city Department of Sanitation. “There should be no extra compensation.”