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The Wildwood 4 Change slate: left to right, Pete Byron, Steve Mikulski and Krista Fitzsimmons

Two of three Wildwood city commissioners charged with illegally taking health benefits

If Byron and Mikulski resign, it’s unclear how city could govern with one commissioner

By David Wildstein, June 24 2022 6:20 pm

Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron and City Commissioner Steven Mikulski were charged today with fraudulently taking state health benefits and fudging time sheets to improperly show that they were full-time city employees, the state attorney announced today.

Ernest Troiano, Jr. a former mayor, was also charged.

“Today we bring charges against current and former public and elected officials for what we allege are breaches of the public trust,” said acting Attorney General Matt Platkin. “We will work tirelessly to root out public corruption and restore faith in our institutions.”

A criminal complaint against two out of three local officials creates a possible crisis.  Wildwood elections are non-partisan, so there is no political party to name replacements if Byron or Mikulski resign.  The third commission, Krista Fitzsimons, would alone not constitute a quorum to conduct official business.  Byron and Mikulski are presumed to be innocent and are under no obligation to leave office.

The terms of all three city commissioners are up in 2023.

After an investigation that began with a referral from the state Division of Pensions and Benefits, the three men were charged with second-degree theft by unlawful taking and third-degree tampering with public records or information.  They face up to 15 years in prison.

According to  the attorney general’s office, Byron, Mikulski and Troiano were ineligible for benefits under a 2010 state law that limited health care coverage to employees who worked 35 hours per week or me.

Instead, prosecutors say Byron and Troiano voted for a resolution in 2010 to declare themselves full-time employees.  But the probe that they “allegedly falsely signed and submitted timesheets to the city indicating they worked full days Monday through Friday.

The state claims Byron cost the state over $608,900 in premiums and claims through last October, while the state incurred expenditures of over $286,600 for Troiano and over $103,000 for Mikulski.   The allegations say that Mikulski “knowingly made false statements in a ‘Health Benefits Enrollment and/or Change Form’ submitted to the City of Wildwood.”

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