In a letter to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres earlier in the week, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office concluded, after an investigation, that there is no basis to bring criminal charges against the reigning mayor over an unprecedented severance check he received in 2010.
The prosecutor’s office cleared the mayor of any wrongdoing. Similarly, in an opinion to the city council, during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the city’s law director Domenick Stampone informed council members, that there is no room for legal action to recover the $74,000 the mayor received a week before leaving office in 2010.
“It was my opinion, in looking at all the facts, the policies, the practice, the statutes, that there would be no cause of action to recover the money from the mayor,” said Stampone on Thursday afternoon. “And that is the opinion I gave the council on Tuesday.”
The letter issued on October 8th, 2014, reads, “Upon close review of the documents and material you [law department] submitted, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s officer has determined that this matter has not met the criteria to be prosecutor by this office.”
“I wasn’t too surprised because the letter was limited to a criminal matter — it was determined not to be a criminal matter,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. “From the beginning, I didn’t think it was a criminal matter.”
The decision appears to have been rendered based on a report that was completed by former business administrator Charles Thomas, for the letter states the prosecutor’s office reviewed documents that were sent on January 17th, 2014.
Paul DeGroot, chief assistant prosecutor, whose signature appears on the letter, responded to an email on Saturday morning, stating he did not have further comments.
During Tuesday’s closed door meeting some council members raised concerns about the objectivity of the law department’s opinion, for it is a department that falls under the mayor’s office.
Council members, a small number of them, wanted to pursue the matter in court out of principle; however, that could cost the city an exorbitant amount of money to pay lawyers for both sides, said McKoy.
“You could pursue it, but it may wind up, with legal fees, time and effort, to cost you more than $74,000 to litigate,” said McKoy. “Do I want to spend that money and still may not get a victory?”