The Mecka Files: What Was Fired Detective Investigating in Little Egg Harbor?

Detective Steven Mecka was fired from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office earlier this summer, with Mecka filing suit against his former employer earlier in 2016. But before he was fired, Detective Mecka was investigating some of Little Egg Harbor’s top power brokers, including former MUA chairman Joseph Mezzina and others, with no charges having been brought as a result of Mecka’s reports, most of which were compiled while Marlene Lynch Ford led the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

meckafiles

Through our network of sources, Ocean County Politics is the only news outlet to have obtained full, unredacted copies of Detective Mecka’s reports on alleged public corruption in Little Egg Harbor that were compiled and sent to his superiors for review. Despite his reports appearing to reference alleged instances of quid-pro-quo tradeoffs and official misconduct among some influential Little Egg Harbor appointed and elected officials, nobody has been charged thus far in connection with the three reports published in this article. Thus, the allegations contained within Detective Mecka’s reports have yet to be proven or disproven in a court of law, but they provide additional insight into some of the issues currently plaguing Little Egg Harbor’s local government.

Prosecutor Coronato

Prosecutor Coronato

Judge Ford

Judge Ford

When we first reported on the allegations contained in his lawsuit, court filings provided a basic overview of some of the players Mecka investigated, but these full case files provide a detailed account of some allegations of public corruption the detective made in the course of discharging his duties.

Mecka said in his lawsuit that he was retaliated against after he was set to interview a confidential informant in Little Egg Harbor that reportedly had incriminating evidence against several OCPO employees. The detective was fired in late July, with spokesman Al Della Fave alleging that the firing was over “credibility issues,” and not the lawsuit Mecka filed.

The careful reader should note that most of these investigations originally began during the tenure of previous Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford, who is now the Ocean County Superior Court’s assignment judge, the top judge in the vicinage.

Given the age of these reports, we’re doubtful that any charges will be filed (at the county level) since nothing has happened thus far. But for those following the troubles of Little Egg Harbor, this is just the latest chapter.

Case #1 – Did former Little Egg Harbor Public Works Superintendent Anthony “Tony” Savino give the Tavistock Homeowners Association a second trash pickup in exchange for a “no-show” job for his son-in-law?

Accused: Anthony Savino. Charges sought: Theft, Official Misconduct

In the detective’s first Little Egg Harbor corruption case, which he began investigating in 2010, Mecka investigated an alleged deal made between Little Egg Harbor DPW boss Anthony Savino and James Sica, the then-president of the Tavistock Homeowners Association, a development in Little Egg Harbor. The deal involved Tavistock hiring Savino’s son-in-law in exchange for Savino using his official position to provide the development with a second weekly trash pickup, at no additional cost to the HOA.

“An investigation into alleged wrongdoing by members of the Little Egg Harbor Township Department of Public Works has provided Little Egg Harbor Police Officers and the undersigned evidence, documentation, and witness statements that implicate Anthony N. Savino’s wrongdoing, while acting in his official capacity,” Detective Mecka wrote in his report.

Deal Made Between DPW Head And HOA President For Free 2nd Trash Pickup

Mecka alleged that Savino entered into an agreement with then Tavistock HOA president James Sica to provide an additional weekly trash pickup for the residential development.

“James Sica made a proposition of employment to Director Savino with the implied expectation if the offer of employment was accepted, a secondary garbage pick-up would be provided to Tavistock at no additional expense,” continued Mecka in his report.

Shortly after accepting the deal, Savino altered the DPW schedule to add the additional trash pickup for the development, according to Mecka.

“Joseph Capriotti received gainful employment as Tavistock began receiving their second trash pick-up,” Detective Mecka continued in his report. “This writer confirmed that Joseph Capriotti is the son-in-law of the Little Egg Harbor Township Department of Public Works Director Anthony Savino.”

Trash Pickup In Exchange For “No Show Job”

When Mecka interviewed Mr. Sica, the HOA president admitted to having provided Capriotti a “no show job” and remarked that it was a favor to Director Savino, and that it was necessary in order to continue receiving the extra trash pickup, which is valued at $15,000 per year, according to the Mecka report.

According to the investigation report, current Little Egg DPW Director Patrick Donnelly told Detective Mecka that in addition to the second trash pickup, the Tavistock community’s dumpsters were being repaired by Little Egg Harbor DPW workers at taxpayer expense, something that no other development in the township was able to obtain, according to Donnelly. Dumpster repairs were only normally made by township workers when their equipment damages them, but the work done was no routine maintenance, according to Donnelly’s statement.

Subpoena Reveals “Fraudulent” Financial Activity

After the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office subpoenaed the bank records of both Savino and Capriotti, Detective Mecka along with Little Egg Harbor Police Chief Richard Buzby inspected the records, and according to Mecka’s report, after inspecting the bank statements he found that Capriotti was signing the payroll checks from Tavistock for the “no show job,” but that his payroll checks were actually being deposited into the bank account of Mr. Savino.

Mecka wrote that the examination of Tavistock financial records revealed “fraudulent” activity and noted that the records appeared to corroborate testimony given in previous witness statements related to the case.

The detective also noted that the financial records of DPW Director Savino indicated that he received a $2,500 check from Schaefer Systems International that was deposited into his personal bank account. Mecka noted that this company receives several public contracts from Little Egg Harbor, including being the provider of robo-trash cans. “Director Savino’s involvement with Schaefer Systems International requires further investigation,” concluded Mecka’s report.

Police Chief Alleges Witness Tampering

A frantic December, 2012 memo sent from Little Egg Harbor police chief Richard Buzby to then-Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford indicated that Committeeman Ray Gormley was approached by an enraged Savino while shopping at the Lowes store located on Route 72 in Manahawkin.

witnesstamperingThe Buzby memo implied that Savino made retaliatory threats against Gormley, and the police chief seemed to be concerned that this conduct could impact the outcome of the investigation.

Mecka’s full report on this case is below. (Social Security numbers and other PII redacted)

Case #2 – Township vehicle batteries and scrap metal, allegedly sold to Waretown private recycling center, DPW boss accused of pocketing the cash.

At issue in Detective Mecka’s second case against Savino was a program established by the township in 2001 that allowed residents to recycle used 12-volt auto and marine batteries by dropping them off in a collection bin located at the township’s Department of Public Works facility. After completing his investigation, Mecka alleged that Savino converted the batteries for his own profit by arranging the batteries to be transported to Sonny’s Recycling Center in Waretown, where he purportedly received cash for the batteries taken from the LEHT recycling yard.

“Director Anthony Savino instructed subordinate employee(s) to remove, transport and sell certain property belonging to the Township of Little Egg Harbor. (i.e.: recyclable auto batteries),” wrote Mecka.

“The auto batteries were turned over to recycle yards in return for cash,” he continued. “It is alleged that Director Anthony Savino removed precious metals (i.e.: Aluminum, Copper, Brass and other miscellaneous material) that belonged to the Township of Little Egg Harbor and personally received the revenue derived from the recycled materials listed above.”

Township Employee Claims She Falsified Reports

As a part of the investigation, Mecka spoke with multiple employees of the DPW that knew of Savino’s activities. One employee, Carol Evans claimed that she falsified recycling reports which were later approved by Savino, rather than confront him about the matter. “Carol Evans claimed that she purposely misrepresented the accounting with hopes that someone in the township would identify the issue and address the matter with Director Savino,” Mecka wrote. The detective said that Evans, a clerk employed with the DPW, was inconsistent with her other statements and could not otherwise provide a reasonable explanation for her handling of the matter.

Another DPW employee who reportedly drove some of the metals to Sonny’s Recycling, Wayne Kershaw, told Mecka that he did not report or speak out about what was going on due to fear of losing his job. The Mecka report also accused Savino of tipping certain employees off when random drug tests were to be adminsitered to assist them in circumventing the township’s drug policy.

Ultimately, a different employee eventually agreed to wear a wire, and Savino was recorded making incriminating statements and admissions of wrongdoing, both via telephone and in-person conversations, according to Mecka’s report, but never faced charges related to the incident.

The full report detailing the allegations against Savino is below.

Case #3 – Former MUA chairman and political boss Joe Mezzina’s land deals and alleged influence peddling at the Little Egg Harbor Planning Board.

Accused: Former LEHT Deputy Mayor Arthur Midgley, Dorothy Midgley, LEHMUA Director David Johnson. Charge sought: Official Misconduct

“An investigation into alleged acts of misconduct by Little Egg Harbor Township Deputy Mayor Arthur Midgley and members of the Little Egg Harbor Township Municipal Utilities Authority has provided the undersigned with evidence, documentation, and witness statements that implicate David Johnson in criminal activity, while acting in his official capacity as Director of the Little Egg Harbor Township Municipal Utilities Authority,” Mecka wrote.

David Johnson

David Johnson

Arthur Midgley

Arthur Midgley

We last caught up with Mr. Johnson, who was at one time the highest paid MUA executive director in all of Ocean County, earlier in 2016 when the MUA paid out a six-figure settlement after a female employee alleged that Johnson sexually harassed her on the job.

“Evidence, documentation, and witness statements also implicate Joseph Mezzina in criminal activity, while acting in his official capacity as Board Chairman of the Little Egg Harbor Township Municipal Utilities Authority,” added Mecka’s report.

The alleged criminal activity centered on a position at the MUA that was created for the wife of former Little Egg Harbor Deputy Mayor Arthur Midgley, Dorothy Midgley.

The Midgleys were known to be personal friends of MUA director David Johnson along with his wife Sandy, and the job offer is reported to have been made at a social get-together at the Johnson residence. According to Mecka’s report, Mr. Midgley confessed in an interview that his wife was hired by Mr. Johnson as a “favor.”

But Johnson’s help in getting Mrs. Midgley a job as a cleaner at the MUA came with a price of its own, as Johnson needed to call in a favor of his own.

“Director Johnson asked Midgley to use his position and influence on the Little Egg Harbor Township Planning Board to assist Chairman Mezzina with obtaining building approvals for the construction of residential townhomes on property owned by Mezzina and the Sea Oaks Country Club,” wrote Mecka.

Mr. Mezzina, known to be influential in Little Egg Harbor politics, was also at the center of allegations made by Mathistown Road property owner Lori Aceto.

Mecka wrote in his report that Midgley was pressured by Johnson to publicly support and vote “yes” on Mezzina’s building approval applications at planning board meetings, despite public opposition.

“Midgley said that he was asked to manipulate the other planning board members into voting in favor of Chairman Mezzina’s approval,” Detective Mecka reported. “Deputy Mayor Midgley stated that he advised Director Johnson that it would be extremely difficult for the planning board to support Chairman Mezzina’s application due to the high level of resistance and lack of public approval in the community.”

Other misconduct alleged in the report included an allegation that Little Egg Harbor MUA commissioners were able to use their influence to purchase township-owned vehicles at below market value.

Gavin Rozzi

Gavin Rozzi is the editor of Ocean County Politics and a lifelong Ocean County resident, residing in Lacey Township. Gavin's work centers on the intersection of money and politics in Ocean County, with a focus on public corruption. In 2017 he created New Jersey's first statewide freedom of information portal, OPRAmachine.com. He can be reached via email at editor@politicsoc.com or via phone at (732)-504-3636 ext. 1 or on encrypted phone / text app Signal.

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15 Responses

  1. John Collins-Carpentry says:

    Corruption Runs deep in Ocean County.

  2. Frank Rizzo says:

    id ask for the FBI to help but after the Hillary thing we all see how corrupt they are too….start prepping,,,the collapse if our country is coming soon…no way can this continue without goverment soon oppressing us

  3. BUZZNUTZ says:

    I wonder how long it’s gonna be before in the know releases the reports on Loesh that were taken.Always threatens to kick people up but bam all of a sudden reports disappear.Lets go give the Liesh reports to Schlick ,or maybe Gavin you could press the issue to see them.It would be nice to read them

  4. BUZZNUTZ says:

    Was so funny watching ol Artie boy break down crying while being questioned .thats one dude that will turn Sammy the Bull in a heart beat .if you do the crime you must be willing to do the time .

  5. BUZZNUTZ says:

    I bet in the know is not so happy now hahahaha
    Gavin we gotta find out who this is lets get the ip come on Gavin speed it up lmao

  6. BUZZNUTZ says:

    I’m Gonna find out who you are buzznutz and liock you up unless you wash my camper for me once a week than I’ll buy you a nice muscle car too

    • redsquirrel1 says:

      It’s not too hard for anyone in Little Egg Harbor to figure you out, “BUZZNUTZ”. Your juvenile, pathetic attempt to discredit people who are far and above better men than you will EVER be, gave you away. Well, that and the fact that your rambling, illiterate first grade gibberish points directly to you, or one of your close cronies…People and taxpayers of Little Egg Harbor, “BUZZNUTZ” is none other than a disgruntled former Little Egg P.D. Lieutenant, and happens to be one of the biggest incompetent morons that Little Egg P.D. ever suffered under. He’s so pi$$ed that he was too much of a moron to become Chief. Just look at his childish posts, this is EXACTLY what you get when dealing with him. Is THIS the kind of guy you would want leading your police department or town??? Maybe his oxygen tube got kinked once too often, and he’s suffering from permanent brain damage. Stop driving your golf cart while intoxicated, and lay off the cigarettes “Lieutenant”, because now it’s not only your lungs and liver that are damaged, but your pea-brain has been seriously affected too. LOL!!!

      • BUZZNUTZ says:

        Red squirrel is that cause you break ladders on fire trucks

        • redsquirrel1 says:

          LOL, you really are a dumba$$, “Lieutenant”. Now the whole world can clearly see why you never went anywhere in Little Egg Harbor. Here’s a hint for ya: stop sulking, put down that cigarette and beer bottle and sober up before coming on here and making a total a$$ out of yourself. Everyone reading your first grade level posts knows EXACTLY who you are. And you’re such a moron that you thought no one would figure you out. I’m quite surprised you made it as far as you did in the police department. The people of Little Egg should thank GOD you stomped your feet, took your toys and went home when you did. GOOD RIDDANCE. Did your corrupt buddies on town council promise you a position in town government? My bet is they DID. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you and them are WASHED UP, and everybody knows it. It’s the talk of the town! Can’t WAIT for Sept. 8th, the sparks are gonna FLY! See you there, “Lieutenant”…LMAO!!!

          • BUZZNUTZ says:

            In the know was barking out orders and came running to his feet was the little red squirrel obeying his command no matter what he was told.

      • BUZZNUTZ says:

        You haven’t earned the right yet to criticize someone’s health .put those potatoe chips down there bad for your heart .lol!!!!!!

      • BUZZNUTZ says:

        What did Martha Stewart get indicted for ?hmmmmmmm

  7. Grightman says:

    I don’t know what’s going on with these guys commenting here, but the NAKED corruption that continually goes ignored by both the county and the State is UNACCEPTABLE. The Ocean county Proesecutors office is doing a large disservice to it’s people by allowing this grotesque political strong arming and corruption happen out in the open. It’s a smack in the face to each of us. Do YOUR JOB COUNTY PROSECUTORS…please take the papers currently in your possession, that you’ve buried in your desks because of corrupt GOP boss George Gilmore , and put this Mezzina guy in federal prison. There are people LINED UP with similar stories of his political intimidation and ‘forced’ vote favoritism…He has dirty deals just lined up and ready for making the FBI’s job EASY. He just accepted his THIRD CHECK , and this one for a mere $5.45 MILLION dollars , from OCEAN County Land Trust on property he illegally acquired permits on! AND THERE (3) THREE OF THESE DEALS IN LITTLE EGG ALONE…BARE NAKED DISGUSTING POLITCAL CORRUPTION ……….ignored ……..GET ANGRY people in LEHT, do you know how much money in taxes you have lost with this guys deals alone?

  8. InTheKnow says:

    If you want to email buzznutz, his email is buzznutz@outlook.com when you can

  9. InTheKnow says:

    BUZZ/BEN/BILLY, STILL GETTING YOUR EMAILS?

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