Capone Claims Payments to Mayor a Fraud And A Theft; “The Money Must Be Paid Back”
By Josh Resnek
Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s hidden longevity payment of $40,000 a year was scaled down to $1,700 by the City Council Monday night.
This was a convincing change of direction for the city council led by first termer Councilor at Large Stephanie Smith. She authored the motion that the city council approved.
The vote was 6-5.
A motion offered by the mayor’s cousin, Councilor Anthony DiPierro, to maintain the mayor’s longevity payment at $2,500 had no traction with his colleagues.
In a surprising move, DiPierro voted against his own motion.
The motion failed by a 9-2 vote.
This also represented the power in the uprising now going on in this city with new voices entering the political arena and having a profound effect.
John Puopolo is one of those voices.
His strong anti-longevity stance played out week to week during the public speaking portion of the city council meetings for the past two months has shown its power.
He is aided by Paula Sterite, and local realtor Sandy Juliano, whose voices have also been heard.
The controversial payment, which enriched the mayor with $180,000 in payments when he should have received $10,000, is believed to be illegal by a host of residents, public officials and former public officials, chief among them, Attorney Fred Ca- pone.
“Longevity paid to an elected official is just wrong – the bigger picture is the theft of $180,000 from our community by the mayor,” Capone told the council.
“This body doesn’t get a pass on this crucial issue. In the face of abuse of power, and misappropriation of public funds this body has an obligation to act,” he lectured the council.
“You have the responsibility to work to get the funds returned. Hidden from the council and community for over five years. These stolen funds must be returned. Every individual who helped to conceal these fraudulent payments should be held accountable,” he said.
An investigation by the Leader Herald revealed last week that the mayor was allowed to cash in vacation days twice last year on two separate occasions in $20,000 payments.
It is estimated the mayor took 280 vacation days during the past two years, causing officials and Capone to wonder how he could be given a “buy back” for vacation by the city.
Those “buy back” payments were later bundled for the mayor quietly into a $40,000 check and distributed to him from the Human Resources Department as a longevity payment.
Approximately 8 city employees had a hand in the cover-up, which allegedly includes City Solicitor Colleen Mejia, Chief Financial officer Eric Demas and six others in the Human Resources department.
To date, no one has taken responsibility for the what Capone called the the “fraudulent” payments.
During an appearance before the city council about six months ago, she was asked if the payments were legal.
She told the council not only were the payments legal, but the mayor had to take the payments as though it would be against the law if he didn’t.
When the mayor refused the payment in January, that set off the widespread belief that his attorneys told him accepting the $40,000 when it should be $2,500 was against the law – in other words – that he’d be committing a crime if he took the money.
Capone said the mayor owes the money, that him taking it was a fraud, that the money must be paid back.