CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Former Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo was indicted for the second time Tuesday on official misconduct, criminal contempt and other charges stemming from an alleged use of public funds to pay for his private legal bills.
The indictment, handed up by a Cape May County grand jury, comes slightly more than two months after Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo on April 2 dismissed the previous indictment of DeMarzo and former city attorney Samuel Lashman.
That first indictment, handed up in March 2011, was dismissed after Garofolo found that various pieces of evidence were not presented to the grand jury. At that time, Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor said Garofolo’s finding was “not legally correct.”
DeMarzo, meanwhile, called for Taylor’s resignation after that first indictment was dismissed.
On Tuesday, DeMarzo sent an email with his comment on the second indictment.
“I have not seen nor have I been officially served with any court document. I am sure this (too) will lead to my complete vindication and the continued lack of confidence and total embarrassment of Mr. Taylor. The public is smarter than he thinks and will continue to see this for what it is: a political witch hunt and a means to a cover-up.
“The (morale) in the Prosecutor’s Office must be at an all-time low,” Demarzo wrote. “l respond to Taylor’s latest disgraceful act with the famous immortal words of General Anthony Clement McAuliffe and his single-word reply to a German surrender ultimatum: ‘NUTS.’”
The new four-count indictment includes charges of second-degree and third-degree official misconduct along with the fourth-degree crimes of criminal contempt (for disobeying a court order) and corruption of public resources.
The indictment alleges that between November 2009 and March 24, 2010, DeMarzo defied a court ruling by Superior Court Judge Valerie Arnstrong and “approved payment of legal expenses from City of Wildwood funds” to Lashman for his personal legal expenses.
Those costs were the result of a lawsuit he filed against Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., Commissioner Bill Davenport, attorney Marcus Karavan and the city, the indictment says.
Armstrong determined the expenses were personal, but DeMarzo disregarded the judge’s decision and paid Lashman in excess of $200, the indictment reads.
“Gary DeMarzo did, in violation of the court order, provide Samuel Lashman Esquire, with public funds to pay legal expenses and costs,” the indictment alleges.
In 2011, a grand jury handed up a six-count indictment against DeMarzo. This time the indictment includes four counts. The previous indictment did not include a charge or criminal contempt for disobeying Judge Armstrong.
Taylor said only that the indictment states the law and that he hoped the media would accurately report the facts.
The previous indictment was dismissed by Garofolo after the judge said it was the result of an unfair grand jury presentation. “This court finds that the substance and manner of the grand jury presentation was fundamentally unfair, deprived the grand jury of its decision-making function and was therefore unconstitutional as to both defendants. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to dismiss is granted,” Garofolo wrote April 2.
DeMarzo has previously called Taylor’s actions the result of “a politically motivated attack,” noting that the first indictment came weeks before the May 10, 2011, election, which DeMarzo lost.
During the 2011 campaign, DeMarzo’s opponents cited the criminal case in advertisements. One asked, “Got indicted?? Your Mayor Did.”
The Prosecutor’s Office alleges that DeMarzo used city funds to pay his private legal bills related to a lawsuit filed after the May 2007 commission election when Troiano and Davenport wanted DeMarzo to choose between his elected commissioner’s job and his position as a city police officer.
DeMarzo was a city police officer from 1998 until 2010, when a court decision forced him to choose which job he wanted to keep. He opted to stay a commissioner.
In his April 2 dismissal order, Garofolo said that if all the evidence had been presented to a grand jury the first time “it would be difficult to envision that a reasonable grand jury could find prima facie evidence that unauthorized conduct by the defendant has been committed.”
The judge found DeMarzo said exactly what he wanted to do, debated the issue at a public meeting and made a budget request which was approved by the vote of two other commissioners appropriating $20,000 to pay for attorney’s fees.
Lashman was not re-indicted Tuesday.
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