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Judges reinstate misconduct charge against Carlstadt Mayor Roseman

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman will petition the state Supreme Court to reject a decision reinstating official misconduct charges against him for what prosecutors say was his failing to remove his ex-wife from the borough’s health plan after they were divorced, his lawyer told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman

“It is not supporting justice to simply leave a person such as Will Roseman to proceed to trial when there is evidence that there was no crime, and certainly insufficient evidence to support a conviction,” defense attorney Patricia Prezioso said after speaking with the mayor about the Appeals Court decision issued today.

To pursue such prosecutions “encourages innocent people to take pleas rather than seek justice,” the lawyer said during a late-afternoon interview after issuing releases to other media. It also has “life-altering collateral effects, brought forth with the help of search engines that keep the story alive forever, coupled with the expense of seeking a trial.

“He is not guilty, and we are going to seek certification from the Supreme Court.”

Superior Court Judge Donald Venezia initially ruled that prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to prove that Roseman committed an act “relating to his office” – a critical requirement for official misconduct, the most serious charge in a multi-count indictment  – by not formally removing his ex-wife, Lori Lewin, from the borough health plan immediately after their divorce.

Patricia Prezioso (McCusker Anselmi Rosen Carvelli)

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli appealed, insisting that — whether there was a master scheme at work or not –a public official cannot “stand idly by.” Venezia defined the arguments too narrowly, the prosecutor said.

A state appellate panel on Thursday agreed with the later and reinstated the charges. The decision reinstates an official misconduct charge against Lewin, as well. They are also accused of conspiracy and theft by deception.

“It can be inferred that [Roseman] permitted claims to be submitted on [Lewin’s] behalf after the divorce,” the judges wrote. “As a result, the borough paid sums on her behalf that should not have been paid by the taxpayers.”

Prezioso said she not only disagrees with their rationale in assessing the merits of the case.

The panel also “got the facts wrong,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Roseman changed his W4 form immediately after the divorce, giving the paperwork directly to the borough payroll clerk – who is also the assistant to the insurance official, Prezioso said.

In a sworn statement, the clerk said she forgot to notify the insurance official, who is also the borough tax collector.

“This was an administrative mistake,” Prezioso said, “not an indictable offense.”

Health care providers who had served her during the marriage retained the benefit information and charges were unknowingly submitted to the Carlstadt plan, the attorney explained.

“Once discovered, an audit was conducted at the mayor’s urging and it was found that almost every ex-spouse of a Carlstadt town employee remained on the plan until this situation came to light,” she said. One other employee “did not fill out any form to remove his ex-spouse” but wasn’t prosecuted.

“Further, [Lewin] has made restitution, which partially came from [her] own insurance company for those claims that were not time-barred,” Prezioso said. “Even her insurance company recognized this as a mistake.”

As a result, Prezioso said, more than $15,000 in benefits were repaid before investigators asked their first question.

The appeals court emphasized in its ruling that it isn’t responsible for determining whether Molinelli’s staff has a winnable case.

“You usually don’t see that type of language in an appellate court decision,” Prezioso, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan Distrct Attorney’s Office, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “What exactly are they saying about the case itself?

“If anything, this decision is a reminder of the awesome power possessed by the county prosecutors in making charging decisions.  If the overwhelming evidence shows there was no crime – and it does – there should be no prosecution. If we don’t have prosecutorial discretion, we shouldn’t have prosecutors.”

Molinelli, keeping with his dictum that “we don’t try cases in the media,” said his staff is “ready to proceed.”

However, he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT earlier that Roseman didn’t make the proper 60-day notice to the borough benefits administrator after the July 2000 divorce, which he said were sufficient grounds for a case.

Carlstadt is a small town: The divorce was known throughout Borough Hall, Prezioso countered at the time.

“To imply that the mayor and his ex-wife hid their divorce and conspired together to keep her on the town plan — especially when she had her own plan in effect — is ridiculous,” Prezioso said. “There was no deception, no official misconduct, no theft, and no crime.”

“These types of errors happen to hundreds of public employees each year. This situation in not unique to my client, except for the fact that the prosecutor is seeking to put him in [prison],” she added. “It was Mr. Roseman who discovered this mistake and brought it into the open, and who immediately sought to arrange for the town to be repaid.”

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