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Judge clears Mahwah mayor of harassment

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Saying the state failed to prove harassment beyond a reasonable doubt, a judge today found Mahwah Mayor William LaForet not guilty of harassment today. LaForet and the borough Department of Public Works union shop steward, Marc Bracciodietta, clashed several times in recent months over proposed layoffs in the Recycling Department, and over Bracciodietta’s speaking out in public and on Facebook about the mayor and his policies. The specific harassment charges stemmed, however, from an incident in the Bagel Express the  morning of Oct. 28, 2012. Bracciodietta said that the mayor demanded that he “not drive past his gas station. I said, ‘Who are you to demand I not drive on Franklin Turnpike?’ ”

Bracciodietta admitted telling another employee of the service station who is his friend “the mayor stinks.” He also said he called the mayor a snake oil salesman and asked him how he slept at night.

At the end of the of the encounter in the bagel shop, he said, the mayor “walked past where I was standing, which was not on the way to the door, and gave me a shot with his elbow right in the stomach.”

LaForet testified that he didn’t recognize Bracciodietta in the store because he was wearing a suit, and that the younger man started the conversation with loud and aggressive name-calling.

The mayor said he was concerned for two young children in the store who were with their parents, saying they shouldn’t be subjected to language such as “liar” and “cheat,” in a steady stream of accusations and name-calling that he said lasted for 3 – 8 minutes.

After Bracciodietta pointed to video cameras aimed at them, the mayor left,Both men then went to the borough police station, had further words, and filed harassment charges against one another.  Bracciodietta added an assault count that was dismissed earlier in today’s proceeding by Central Municipal Court Judge Roy McGeady. Testimony included a discussion of Bracciodietta’s union activities on behalf of the recycling employees, whose jobs were in jeopardy.LeForet’s attorney, Joseph Rem, asked Bracciodietta whether a large blow-up rat used in one demonstration was not, in fact, supposed to be the mayor. “Of course not,” Bracciodietta said.  “It had nothing to do with the mayor….It also says on the rat ‘Don’t outsource recycling.’ ” “Everyone knows what a rat means in union demonstrations,” he added. “It means bringing in workers who are non-union.”

STORY, PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia

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