Elmwood Park mayor Francesco Caramagna is resigning as part of a plea deal with prosecutors following an investigation into tampering with vote-by-mail ballots during Caramagna’s last campaign.
The 73-year-old Democrat was charged with one count of interfering with the secrecy of the election process.
The Bergen County prosecutor’s office said that Caramagna resigned on Sunday, but his letter of resignation received this evening by the municipal clerk sets his resignation at midnight today.
“It has come to my attention that I am the subject of an investigation into what have been described to me as technical violations of the election laws regarding absentee ballots. While I maintain my complete innocence and regard these allegations as being politically motivated, I have nonetheless discussed and considered my options with my family and friends, and have sought the advice of legal counsel,” Caramagna said. “I want and need to put the interests of others first: the Borough of Elmwood Park and its citizens, my family, and those dear friends and supporters of mine whose votes were cast by absentee ballot. I have therefore decided to tender, with sadness and a heavy heart, my resignation as Mayor of this great Borough of Elmwood Park, effective at 12:00 midnight on this date.”
Caramagna maintained that his resignation was “to minimize any embarrassment to my family, friends and supporters as I defend against whatever accusations might ultimately be made against me.”
“I do so also to prevent the use of this investigation by my political opponents to smear the good reputation of the democratic candidates running for re-election in November, whom I will continue to support for the good of Elmwood Park,” he said.
The mayor was represented by John Bruno, Jr., a prominent criminal defense attorney. Caramagna is expected to appear in court on May 22.
Prosecutors are alleging that he interfered with three elections: the June 2017 Democratic primary, the November 2017 general election, and the November 2018 general election.
Council president Daniel Golabek, a 24-year-old law student, will become the acting mayor until Democrats pick a new mayor to fill the remaining seven months of Caramagna’s term.
The Elmwood Park Democratic county committee will submit three names to the 6-0 Democratic majority on the borough council, who may pick one of the three within thirty days. If they cannot agree on an interim mayor, the county committee will make the choice.
Golabek and councilman Joseph Dombrowski are considered the leading candidates to replace Caramagna.
Caramagna will also withdraw from his re-election bid this year, although it is not immediately clear if he will remain on the ballot in the June 4 primary election. Caramagna is currently unopposed for renomination.
If he wins the primary, the local Democratic organization will vote to pick a new candidate. Contenders could wait for the party to pick the replacement candidate or have the option of mounting a write-in campaign.
Republicans have a contested primary. Robert Colletti, who became mayor in 2016 after Richard Mola died after 45 years in office, faces former councilwoman Magdalena Giandomenico.
Colletti lost a 2017 special election to Caramagna, who had served as a councilman and school board member, by 318 votes.
Caramagna beat Colletti by three votes on Election Day, 1,864 to 1,861, but carried mail-in ballots by 296 votes. Caramagna won the provisional ballot count, 38-19.Mayor Frank Caramagna Resignation