Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jerry Mezz

Well the game seems to be coming to a close. This from the Charleston Gazette:

Mezzatesta indicted
Former delegate, ex-superintendent face federal charges

Former House Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta and former Hampshire County schools Superintendent David Friend were indicted Tuesday on federal charges of defrauding the school board and misappropriating public funds.

A federal grand jury in Martinsburg charged the ailing Mezzatesta, 59, of Romney, and Friend, 59, of Morgantown, with conspiring to misapply public funds between January 2004 and June 2005, Acting U.S. Attorney Rita Valdrini said.

Friend’s attorney, Wes Metheney of Morgantown, defended his client from what he called “a Mezzatesta witch hunt’’ and called the indictments “a shame.’’

The charges center on a $75,000 grant that Mezzatesta, a nine-term lawmaker, sought in March 2003 for the Special Services Workshop in Romney. Mezzatesta had agreed not to use his legislative office to seek money for the Hampshire County school system where he was employed as an administrator.

In 2004, Friend asked state officials for permission to spend the money instead on Red Cross and emergency services training facilities in Romney and Springfield.

State officials who approved the change said the list included equipment, infrastructure for the Future Farmers of America at the Hampshire County fairgrounds and supported employment opportunities for the Special Services Workshop.

The list did not include $5,000 distributed by the county to the Capon Bridge Library and $5,000 each to six volunteer fire departments in Augusta, Capon Bridge, Capon Springs, Levels, North River and Slanesville.


If convicted on both counts of the federal indictment, Mezzatesta and Friend could each be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay as much as $500,000 in fines.

Fifteen years and $500,000 in fines for what? Diverting money into volunteer fire companies and improvements to facilities at the Hampshire County Fairgrounds which are used by Hampshire County Schools?

The man has lost his seat on the legislature. He has basically marginilized in the community. He (apparently) has cancer and is not doing well. He paid a $2,000 fine a few months ago. How can this continue on?

I hate to agree with Superintendent Friend's lawyer--because Friend did deserve to lose his job, but should not go to jail for any amount of time--this is a "Mezzatesta witch-hunt." Unfortunately, his sister was basically forced out of a job, thereby removing one of the best educators Hampshire County Schools has ever known. Now Friend faces this harsh sentance. For redirecting funds? With the approval of unnamed State Officials? This is simply ludicrous.

Jerry did wrong. There's no doubt about it. Things should have gone differently, he--much like Clinton during the sex scandle--should have stood up and apologized. He should have taken the blame and maybe he should have even stepped down from the legislature. But when is enough enough?

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but I can't help but think that this could certainly be one. Jerry had carved himself a nice little piece of the "power pie" from the elite in Charleston. They didn't like it, and now he--and anybody loosely associated with him--must pay. Why? Because the self proclaimed "real West Virginians" from the Charleston/Huntington area have to teach us easterners a lesson--try to take power from us, and you'll pay. That's the bottom line.

I'm rooting for you, Jerry. I stand firmly in your corner on this one. Go get 'em and God be with you as you recover from your ailment.

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At 5:39 PM, Blogger Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

Fuck Mezzatesta.
He's a crook and a liar who abused the public trust and he deserves everything he gets.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

He did not abuse the public trust. The people of Hampshire County elected him to go to Charleston and bring some power (and some money) to our county...and he did just that. Get you facts straight, sir, before you come here and speak with that tone.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger theedithr said...

I was going to tell you about this at dinner.

They got the press release at the end of the day yesterday at the Review, and a professor gave it to me today.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

I've got my facts straight, pal. And as a WV taxpayer, I'll speak with whatever tone I like.

Mezzatesta collected two taxpayer-funded paychecks at the same time.
No other West Virginia school employee who also serves in the Legislature collects two paychecks simultaneously.
School employees/legislators don't take paid professional leave during legislative sessions. They take unpaid leave.

Mezzatesta signed an agreement with the Ethics Commission not to use his position as chairman of the Education Committee to solicit Department of Ed grants for his local school district, which he did anyway.

He diverted grant money originally meant for a sheltered workshop in Romney. The bulk of the money went to volunteer fire departments in Hampshire County - at Mezzatesta's request.
And then tried to cover up his misdeeds by conspiring with his wife and secretary to create bogus documents.

And then he plays the health card saying that he's got cancer to get a plea deal.
Then after being reprimanded by the ethics commission and being fined $2000, this piker refuses to pay until the court orders him to do so.

Abuse of trust? I guess not if he's bring home money to YOUR district.I guess stealing from the handicapped is OK as long as you get your cut.

This guy represents everything that is ugly and corrupt in WV politics. He deserves to rot his cancerous ass off in prison.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Well thank you very much for summarizing the news article I linked to. Hearing the same thing I read rephrased by you surely did help.

The "two paychecks" issue is a seperate one from the issue being addressed in federal court.

Look, I'm not saying what he did was right. It wasn't, and there's no excuse. But to say that he is somehow a horrible human being is just beyond any scope of reason. Mezz does not deserve to go to jail for 15 years. He had the approval of Mr. Friend to divert the funds from the School Board to the Fire Departments (which is why Friend was included in the indictment). That doesn't make it right, but it sure as hell isn't the same thing as taking the money for himself or lining the pockets of his buddies.

I also didn't say that his actions are ok as long as we get "our cut." He--much like Clinton in the sex issue--should have been honest from the start of things and he could have stopped this garbage dead in its tracks.

Like I said, I'm NOT saying he deserves to get off with a slap on the wrist, but I have to think that losing his chairmanship, his seat in the legislature, his job with the Hampshire BOE, basically being run out of the county and now being diagnosed with cancer has to count as some sort of punishment for his actions. He has lost everyting he had built and has literally no chance of ever working in public service again. Isn't that some sort of punishment in and of itself. And isn't it more meaningful than sending him to jail for 15 years? I have to think it is.

What about Friend? He was named in the indictment and could be sentanced to the same 15 years. is that deserved? Should he be locked away for approving the funds diversion? No. The mans a creep, but he isn't a criminal.

And one final note...what does you being a WV tax payer have to do with you coming to MY blog and being a jerk? The two are not related!


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