Indictment against former mayor dismissed for second time

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WILDWOOD – Judge Albert Garofolo has dismissed, for a second time, official misconduct charges against former Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo.

“I’m very excited,” DeMarzo said of the dismissed charges on Jan. 4. “It is a weight that has been lifted. I feel like I could shout it from rooftops.”

DeMarzo was indicted in June on charges of misconduct and contempt of court for allegedly using city funds to pay for personal legal fees by attorney Samuel Lashman. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in July. Similar charges, minus the contempt charge, against DeMarzo had been dismissed in April by Garofolo.

According to Garofolo’s letter of option, the reason for the dismissal was the lack of evidence.

 

Garofolo said that the presentation to the Grand Jury was “fundamentally unfair” and deprived the jury of its decision making function.

The judge said that it was unconstitutional for both defendants, DeMarzo and Lashman, and granted the motion to dismiss the case.

“The Grand Jury simply heard that Samuel Lashman worked for the city as a confidential assistant, was paid with public funds, and provided legal services to Gary DeMarzo,” wrote Garofolo.

The judge said that there was no evidence that proved any charge of official misconduct.

The judge noted that DeMarzo and Lashman only became familiar with each other in October 2009, after DeMarzo proposed an additional $20,000 in his department’s budget and before Mayor Ernie Troiano filed an ethics complaint regarding a potential conflict of interest.

The prosecution argued DeMarzo used money to pay for personal legal expenses for a lawsuit that he then filed against Mayor Ernie Troiano, former commissioner Bill Davenport and city attorney Marcus Karavan in 2010.

Troiano and Davenport argued that it was a conflict of interest for DeMarzo to be a commissioner while he was a police officer. DeMarzo was a member of the police department since 1998.

In 2007, Superior Court Judge Joseph Visalli ruled DeMarzo could maintain his office and remain on an unpaid leave of absence from the police department, with certain judicial restrictions, such as limiting which issues he could vote on. DeMarzo complied and went on an unpaid leave of absence after the 2007 election.

Troiano and Davenport appealed the case, citing that the decision resulted in multiple conflicts of interest. The appeals court agreed with the conflicts of interest, and ruled that DeMarzo had 20 days to choose one job or the other.

At the time, DeMarzo was also involved in another legal battle over his decision to hold both positions with then then Lt. Richard Adair. In this case, Superior Court Judge Valerie Armstrong ordered that DeMarzo had to make a decision, and in May of 2010 DeMarzo left the police department to keep his job as commissioner.

Garofolo said that the state’s position was that DeMarzo was seeking a personal benefit and hired Lashman to represent him.

DeMarzo’s defense attorney Louis Barbone argued that the three-member City Commission lawfully authorized the addition of $20,000 into the Revenue and Finance Department budget, which DeMarzo headed in 2009, for Lashman’s services.

First Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson, however, said the $20,000 entitled DeMarzo to a personal aide and not an attorney to represent him in personal matters.

The total bill was $346.

“There is nothing to suggest that Lashman did nothing more than accept an offer of performing professional services for DeMarzo at the rather paltry rate of $36 per hour,” according to Garofolo’s opinion letter.


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