A Cape May County Superior Court judge dismissed charges of official misconduct against former Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo on Friday.
DeMarzo, a former city police officer who lost his position as mayor in the city’s May 2011 elections, had been charged with using city funds to pay for personal legal work completed by attorney Samuel Lashman.
This is the second time Judge Albert Garofolo has dismissed charges against DeMarzo.
The first indictment, handed up by a grand jury in March 2011, was dismissed after Garofolo found that various pieces of evidence were not presented to the grand jury. At that time, county Prosecutor Robert Taylor said Garofolo’s finding was “not legally correct.”
A Cape May County grand jury indicted DeMarzo a second time in June.
DeMarzo’s attorney, Louis Barbone, called the case “simply a pitiful attempt” and said there was no factual basis on which to charge his client.
“We knew (the dismissal) was coming based on all the evidence in the case because there is no evidence, and we are most pleased that the judge agreed,” he said. “So Gary will happily move on.”
In May 2007, DeMarzo’s fellow commissioners Ernie Troiano Jr. and Bill Davenport argued it was a conflict for DeMarzo to serve as a member of the Police Department — where he had served since 1988 — and as a commissioner.
In May 2010, DeMarzo chose to remain a commissioner and give up his job with the department after an Appellate Court ruled he could not serve both positions.
The prosecution argued DeMarzo used money to pay for personal legal expenses for a lawsuit he filed against the two commissioners as well as attorney Marcus Karavan and the city as he sought a legal ruling.
DeMarzo said the money was used for a personal aide that was approved by the City Commission, but the prosecution argued it was improperly spent on a personal attorney.
Taylor said Friday’s ruling was not unexpected and that the state had asked Garofolo to recuse himself. The prosecutor said he may appeal the judge’s decision to not recuse himself and will definitely appeal the judge’s ruling to dismiss the indictment.
Taylor said Superior Court Judge Valerie Armstrong ruled in December 2009 that DeMarzo was not permitted to use taxpayer money on his personal lawsuit, but he signed a voucher to use $346 of city funds anyway in March 2010.
“The case is not complicated,” the prosecutor said.
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