It was wholesale robbery and political corporation on an unprecedented unlike anything else the Nutmeg state has ever seen before or since. The Hayes gang of Waterbury were accused of stealing a million dollars but the actual numbers was probably $3,000,000. 00.
Timothy Frank Hayes, a powerful democrat boss in an overwhelmingly democrat state, was not only the mayor of what was then the very prosperous and wealthy industrial city of Waterbury he was also Connecticut’s first part time Lieutenant Governor in 1939, the position being a mostly ceremonial position. For seven years, from 1930 until 1939, Hayes and his men robbed the city of at least $3,000,000.00
Frank Hayes was born in Waterbury to Irish immigrant parents who made a small but respectable fortune in the liquor store business. When his father died in 1913, Hayes took control of the family businesses while serving as a bank director of a local bank and president of the nationwide Lux (later renamed Timex) corporation. He also owned considerable real estate in mid-town Waterbury, a brewery and as the Jacques Theater. He graduated from Georgetown University (A sister graduated from Trinity College, a brother from West Point)
Hayes was, handsome and had an air of distinction as well as a certain Celtic élan that worked in Waterbury. He was a ladies man and life-long bachelor who lived with his mother until she died. Ambitious, rich and politically savvy, and with the complete backing of the mighty Hartford based Spellacy political organization behind him, Hayes more than probably would have been governor of the state at some point.
Between 1927 and 1930, he sat as a deputy in the House of Representatives of Connecticut. In 1932 and 1936, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, chairman of the state council and in 1934 he was elected vice-governor of Connecticut under Wilbur Lucius Cross, the first in the state’s history.
Dan Leary, Hayes partner in crime who served as his comptroller, was also native Waterburian. He was independently wealthy and would remain owner of the Diamond Ginger Ale Company until his death. He served on the board of finance from 1921 until 1929, then as a city alderman and finally as city controller. He also ran for and was defeated for Lieutenant Governor in 1930.
In his first bid for mayor in 1929, Hayes, a life-long political hack who billed himself as a business man who would run Waterbury like a corporation. Waterburian’s, fed up with raising taxes and poor city services, liked Hayes message and elected him and keep electing over the coming decade.
It was actually an easy win. Mayor Francis Guilfoile left the city in debt to the tune of $14,000,000 and a fair portion of that came from corruption, most of it in the form of overpayment/kickbacks to local building contractors.
On his first day in office, Hayes got business stealing from the city. He created a no-bid city contracts system and handed out business to the highest bidder. On his first day in city hall, Dan Leary inspected each department and complained to Hayes that there were “To many records” around city hall and they and made it clear to the town book keepers that “certain people put us here and keep us and they need to be taken care of on time and in full”
So to answer that complaint, the first thing Hayes and Leary did was to take away all power from the city treasurer Edward Tuttle and hand the power of the office over to Thomas Patrick Kelly, the Mayors secretary and right hand man, acted as both the operations collector and distributor for graft and stolen cash. He also emptied 99 file filled boxes from the treasurer’s office and tossed them into the Naugatuck River. The 99 boxes were later entered as evidence against him.
A favorite trick of Kelly’s was pay kick back money with unnumbered city checks which were all preprinted with the needed signatures of the mayor and city clerk. Dan Leary’s was the required third signature and he only signed checks after handling them, leading to the urban legend that Leary had duped Hayes into robbing the city blind.
When one book keeper, Joe Purcelll, asked too many question, Kelly had him sent to see Leary who threatened to have him “thrown out a window”. Mayor Hayes later chided Purcell by saying “You should not question the great integrity of Mr. Leary”
Seven years later when it was learned that Purcell kept his own set of true accounting books, Leary offered a him an extremely lucrative job “Doing nothing” at his beverage company. Purcell turned it down.
Hayes, Leary and Kelley got away with that sort of behavior because the average civil service was terrified of them, mostly because Hayes and Hayes alone could decide who worked for the city and who was fired from city employment.
Everything that could be stolen was stolen. One part of the scam included distributing funds, about $100,000 that the city saved on electric bills to various city officials. One pal of Hayes, billed as a trucker although he was a dentist who didn’t own a truck, received a payout of $75,000 from the administration, kept 10% and returned the balance in cash to city hall.
A broker in New York supposedly earned $191,000 in two weeks selling city bonds. That would be the equivalent today of about $3,350,000.
A local lawyer was paid $126,000 by city hall to lobby for lower electric rates. He washed the money in a bank that cleaned all of the Hayes bribe money, kept $20,000 for himself and kicked back $106,000 to the Hayes gang.
At least $600,000 in city funds were paid for contracting work that was never done and fees of $175,000 were split between the Hayes team and vendors and contractors.
Leary owned the Red Fox Brewery and every bar in town, if they wanted to keep their license, had to buy at least a couple cases of the beer, which was notoriously bad.
Hartford Mayor and state democratic boss Frank Spellacy got a cut of the kickbacks as did former Waterbury Mayor Francis Guilfoile.
Those were the crimes that were accused of and then there are the alleged crimes that Hayes and his gang are supposed to have gotten away with are the yearly “cleaning and refacement” of the 2,500 pound brass statute of horse atop the Carrie Welton Fountain at the east end of the town green. Of course the statue was never actually cleaned by Hayes men had the invoices to prove that was clean…..invoices sent to a nonexistent, out of town brass cleaning company. And then there was the army of invisible cleaning ladies who polished the marble in the city hall building, payments on police cars that were never ordered and never arrived and it went on and on like that.
Of course the epic robbery of Waterbury’s treasury wasn’t much of a secret. A lot of people knew about it because a lot of people were part the crime but even more people in government were willing to look the other way because the state’s Governor was 76 years old and in bad health and most assumed that it was only a matter of time before he died in office and the already powerful and notably vindictive Hayes would take the reins and the whole pillage of the state government would be begin. Actually it has already begun, but on a small scale.
Hayes was rolling in stolen dough so he invested some of in to a company called Electric Steam Sterilizer. Then he introduced a bill requiring the installation of electric steam sterilizers in all of Connecticut's public toilets but only after he had made damn sure that the only electric steam sterilizers were manufactured by Electric Steam Sterilizer. To make very sure the bill passed, Electric Steam Sterilizer’s salesmen promised that their machine would also stop the spread of venereal disease.
Governor Wilbur Cross (above) got wind of the scam and told the state health commissioner to test the machine’s claims and he did. He reported back that the machine not only did nothing to prevent the spread of VD, it also didn’t sterilize anything.
The Legislature let the Hayes bill die.
Yet, with the nerve of an ally cat Hayes actually started to refer to himself as a reform candidate, a reform democrat and a reform mayor.
In the 1937 election, with the city's solvency being questioned and with the hi jinks of the Hayes racket was known across most of the city and in a sort of rebellion that year’s election, several candidates rose up against him. Hayes beat them all but just barely, defeating his republican opponent by only 55 votes. The Republican American found that the voters listed on the city tally sheets were heavily padded. But even with that, Daniel Leary was defeated for city controlled losing the election by 33 votes to Republican Sherwood Rowland…the only republican in the city administration.
Within two weeks Rowland discovered that the Hayes gang had hidden kickbacks and illegal income by creating their own accounting books and sent the results of his investigation to the Republican American who began their inquiry into the case. The Hayes gang responded by having the Hayes appointed finance board issue a gag order on Rowland.
Hayes and the Republican American hated went back a decade when William Pape, (Above) publisher of the Waterbury Republican newspaper, became suspicious of the remarkable leap in the number of registered democrats in the city and sent two of his reporters to look into it. The reporters discovered what was, and continues to be, a long standing Waterbury political tradition; the voter rolls were filled with the names of long dead citizens. As a result of the investigation, the Democratic and Republican registrars of voters were removed from office and the silent war between the Hayes gang and the Republican American began.
Pape was also suspicious of the fact that during the Hayes administrations, Waterbury had somehow fallen into debt even though business was booming in the city and taxes were at an all-time high and Rowlands report conformed his suspicions.
As the newspapers investigation went on William Papp found two hidden microphones in his office and received one threat of blackmail from Leary who had hired a New York based private eye to dig up dirt on the publisher to which Papp answered “You may fire when ready” but the threat was never carried out.
Based on the newspaper stories, a grand jury was formed to investigate the missing record and Mayor Hayes and when that alarm sounded the very first thing that Hayes and Leary did was to painstakingly destroy virtually all of the direct evidence of corruption. It was a good plain and, for the most part, it worked.
In their "frantic endeavors to conceal their peculations" the Hayes gang started "three highly relevant fires," including one, supervised by the street department superintendent who burned duplicate truck rental vouchers. Another fire was set inside the bank that cashed the kickback checks.
A grand jury indicted Hayes and Leary and 21 others by describing them as ''a powerful, ruthless and corrupt group of men who had managed the affairs of the city for personal financial gain.''
When asked to explain the charges against him, Hayes told the Governor ''Even the suggestion awakened his indignation. 'All of the charges against him have no foundation in fact. He was not responsible for acts in which he took no part, he said. The trial, which he hoped would come soon, would exonerate him. All of this was spoken with the air of an honest man whose honor is hurt.''
The governor called in the legislative leaders to consider a special session of the Legislature to impeach Hayes, but all agreed that an impeachment hearing could interfere with Hayes's trial and the matter was dropped. In the meantime, two prominent state Republicans bribed by Hayes to pass of the restroom sterilization bill were convicted and sent to jail.
In the summer of 1938, six months before his term was to end, the Governor demand Hayes resignation but Hayes refused of course. Hayes finally resigned as Mayor of Waterbury on September 2, 1939 with this statement “I state here and now, with all vigor at my command that I am absolutely innocent of any crime or crimes of which I have been accused and, at the moment, stand convicted. However, under the torrent of abuse to which I have been subjected before, during and since the trial, by those who are my political enemies, I feel that I can no longer do justice to the position from which I now resign.
Because Hayes and Leary destroyed almost all of the evidence the state was left with little more than weak circumstantial evidence. However one piece of seemingly weal evidence was an accountant's document that pointed the finger directly at Hayes and Leary.
But by then, the entire state power structure was tired of having Hayes around. He was an embarrassment, a pillar to greed. Weak evidence or not, he was going to jail.
The state Supreme Court found sufficient to support a jury's verdict against Hayes, Leary and 21 of their co-conspirators.
In 1940, in a behind the scenes deal, Hayes was finally convicted on the very weak charge of conspiracy to defraud the City of Waterbury. A handcuffed Hayes entered Wethersfield Prison on March 6, 1941. He would serve six year in jail.
Charged along with Hayes was state representative Charles E. Williamson who was a member of the Connecticut Republican State Central Committee. Williamson was convicted of conspiracy to cheat and defraud the city of Waterbury of more than a million dollars, sentenced to a year in jail and $500 fine.
Waterburian John H. Crary, another member of Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee, alternate delegate to Democratic National Convention from Connecticut, 1928, 1932 and Waterbury city assessor was also charged and convicted and sentenced to two months in jail and fined $500.
Harry E. Mackenzie, an alternate delegate to Republican National Convention from Connecticut, 1928, 1932, 1936, was also charged with conspiracy. He admitted that he received large fees for lobbying, and paid half back as a kickback to the other conspirators. He turned state’s evidence and testified against the other defendants and was still sentenced to nine months in jail anyway.
Johnny Johnston, a New York broker was also sentenced to five years. Other tried and convicted were Carl Olson, a banker who washed the stolen money, John Crary, the town chairman, Tommy Flemming, the superintendent of streets, Martin Dunn, the corporate counsel, Charles O’Connor, Thomas Shanahan, Mike Slavin, Phil and Ralph Coppeto, Ed Levy, a New Haven lawyer, Timothy Horgan, a city hall supervisor and Carl Olsen, the vice president of a small bank that provided money-laundering services.
Leary was sentenced to 10-to-15 years in prison. On March the 6, 1941, the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sent state troopers out to pick him up but Leary was long gone and would remain gone for five years. His $50,000 bond was revoked, put up by Elene Hayes, the mayor’s elderly mother because Leary’s home and most of his other assets, were in his wife’s name.
When it became obvious that he skipped town a state warrant was issued for his arrest.
Leary fled to New York first and stayed there for two weeks, then to Florida and finally to Chicago, arriving there in 1942 and living under the name James Donovan. He already had an uncertified birth certificate bearing the name of James Donovan. For the next five years Leary earned as, of all things, a Catholic bible salesman.
One of the reasons it took so long to capture Leary was that he was careful to never have his fingerprints taken as Danial Leary, although he did have his prints taken by the draft board as James Donovan. However one day Leary was walking down Monroe Street near Michigan Avenue when he was spotted by George E. Palmer, a former Waterburian transplanted to Chicago. Palmer ran over to a nearby traffic cop who held Leary for questioning
Edward J. Hickey, (Above) commissioner of Connecticut state police, identified Leary in the detective bureau and Leary admitted who he was. “What’s' the use? You know me. I’m Leary. It’s really been hell, Ed,” and added “I might as well take my medicine and get it over with” he said as if he had a choice.
When Hickey asked Leary why he robbed the city he replied “If you can’t take care of your friends in politics, what’s the use of politics?”
When he arrested, Leary was carrying $4,500 in cash and a sheet that showed he had invested $78,532.81 in the Religious Mart, a Chicago company and made a profit of $10,071.53 in five months, a very large sum of money for the time.
He was sent back to Connecticut and served 7 years in prison and was released on March 6 1953.
Frank Hayes returned to Waterbury and remained a widely respected and well liked, in fact, loved character around Waterbury, a town that tends to forgive and overlook a lot when it involves one of its own. He died, shamelessly, following a heart attack while in St. Mary’s hospital in Waterbury in 1965 at age 81.
In 1963, federal agents raided Leary’s home and business and seized more than $172,000 in cash to satisfy a back tax lien. Two years later, on November 4, 1965, 73 years old Dan Leary also died in St. Mary’s hospital of a heart attack.
Oddly enough, Sherwood Rowland’s grandson, John G. Rowland, became governor of the state and in 2004 was forced to resign due to fraud and served 30 months in prison.
In 1940 the Waterbury Republican newspaper was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for their coverage of the Hayes administration’s scandals.