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AG Files in Court to Remove Byron from Office

AG Files in Court to Remove Byron from Office

By Christopher South

Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron speaks at a public meeting
File Photo
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron

WILDWOOD – The New Jersey Office of Attorney General (OAG) confirmed that, Aug. 16, it filed for an order of forfeiture from New Jersey Superior Court to remove Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron from office following his being sentenced in U.S. District Court on tax fraud charges, Aug. 2.

In a brief, one-sentence statement, the OAG said, “The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice has filed with the Superior Court seeking to have Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron removed from municipal office.”

Byron received notice of the application for the forfeiture order.

It was not immediately known when a Superior Court judge will be scheduled to hear the application.

After the Aug. 9 Wildwood Board of Commissioners meeting, Wildwood City Solicitor Louis DeLollis said that Byron being sentenced on the federal charges did not immediately translate to him being forced out of office.

“It would apparently require the New Jersey attorney general to get involved,” DeLollis said.

The OAG ultimately filed for the order of forfeiture.

Byron was sentenced to three years of probation during a hearing in U.S. District Court, Aug. 2. Judge Karen M. Williams also ordered him to pay a fine of $14,000 in addition to $7,014 in restitution to the IRS. Byron is being permitted to pay off his fines in monthly installments of no less than $300.

A little over two weeks after Byron’s sentencing, the OAG determined that Byron should not remain in his elected office.

In a Herald article regarding Byron’s sentencing, reporter Shay Roddy, who has been covering the case since it began, referred to a New Jersey statute (N.J.S.2C:51-2), which “requires public officials who are convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, involving their official duties, or of the third-degree or higher (or the equivalent in another jurisdiction like federal court) to leave public office.”

Byron’s federal charges were not related to his official duties as an elected official in Wildwood.

Conversely, Byron, along with Commissioner Steve Mikulski and former Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., is facing charges in state court for allegedly unlawfully accepting health benefits despite not working full time in his elected position. The three were reindicted, July 31, on 12 counts, including alleged official misconduct, theft by unlawful taking, tampering with public records, and falsifying or tampering with records.

Indictments on identical charges were dismissed by Super Court Judge Bernard DeLury Jr. due to a procedural error. A guilty verdict on any of the state charges could result in a lifetime ban from serving in elected office.

Byron said he was definitely shocked by the OAG filing for the order, saying, “It was not part of the plea agreement.”

He said he sent the notice to the attorney who represented him in the federal case but said Assistant Federal Public Defender Thomas Young can’t represent him in this case. Byron said the federal and state cases are each a waste of tax dollars and nothing more than a political attack.

“The health care case is a waste of taxpayer money, and this (federal case) was a total waste of taxpayer money. It was not part of the plea agreement. It’s just a political witch hunt to get me out of office,” Byron, who is a Democrat, said. “The people want me here. It’s a party issue.”

As it stands, Byron faces being removed from office for the rest of his term but would not necessarily be prevented from running for election to a new term. That could change depending on the outcome of the state case.

Wildwood Deputy Mayor Krista Fitzsimons announced, April 12, that she would run for reelection in 2023, but not with her two co-commissioners. In a press release, Fitzsimons said she would be joined on the Nov. 7 ballot by former School Board President Todd Kieninger and Zoning and Planning Board Vice-Chair Phil Swetsky.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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