WILDWOOD — Former Mayor Gary DeMarzo says he is seeking to clear his name as his malicious prosecution lawsuit against Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor heads to mediation.
“It’s very gratifying because it slowly gets my credibility back that was stripped, and that was a huge problem in this digital age,” said DeMarzo, also a former city police officer. “This tarnishment will now follow me forever.”
Taylor declined to comment on the lawsuit.
DeMarzo was indicted three times in Cape May County — all three of which were dropped or dismissed — over alleged misuse of $348 in city funds.
In his suit, filed in 2013, DeMarzo, represented by attorney Louis Barbone, claims Taylor used his position to seek vengeance after DeMarzo attempted to subpoena tapes of alleged physical abuse of a prisoner by a police officer against whom no charges were ever filed. DeMarzo said he was trying to prove selective enforcement in the case of former Sgt. David Romeo, also charged with abusing a prisoner.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Noah Bronkesh dismissed all other defendants in the case, leaving just DeMarzo and former city Prosecutor Samuel Lashman’s claim against Taylor, according to court documents and DeMarzo. The case will go to mediation before retired Judge Michael Donio, DeMarzo said Monday.
DeMarzo has been a polarizing figure in the Wildwood political scene for more than a decade, as a cop suing the city in 2005 over alleged retaliation, to the legal challenge of his dual posts as a police officer and a city official in 2007, to his 2009 role in the recall effort that led to the ousting of then- and now-Mayor Ernie Troiano.
In the indictments, the county alleged it was illegal for DeMarzo — a city commissioner at the time — to pay Lashman, his attorney, $348 in city funds for work related to a suit filed against DeMarzo by the city over his role as a police officer.
In the new lawsuit, Taylor is being represented by attorney Matthew Behr of Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman and Goggin in Cherry Hill. Behr referred all comments on the case to spokesman Leland Moore of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. Moore said the state cannot comment on pending litigation.
“For years, Taylor dragged my family and I through this personal hell, making this ordeal a public spectacle; indictments that will now follow my family and I for the rest of my life,” DeMarzo said in a statement.
DeMarzo and Lashman are seeking monetary compensation for the negative impact the three indictments had on their professional and personal lives.
The first indictment was dropped, and the two others were dismissed by Judge Albert Garofolo.
DeMarzo ran for re-election to the City Commission in 2011 after he was indicted and lost. At the time, his opponents used his indictment in political ads against him. He ran again in 2015 and was again defeated.