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

Wildwood mayor, city commissioner indicted for receiving illegal health benefits

Pete Byron, Steve Mikulski and former mayor Ernest Troiano face prison for faking time sheets

By David Wildstein, March 29 2023 2:14 pm

A grand jury has indicted two Wildwood city officials for fraudulently taking state health benefits and fudging time sheets to improperly show that they were full-time city employees, Attorney General Matt Platkin announced today.

Mayor Peter Byron and City Commissioner Steven Mikulski were initially charged in June.  Former Mayor Ernest Troiano was also charged and indicted.

After an investigation that began with a referral from the state Division of Pensions and Benefits, the three men were indicted on charges of second-degree official misconduct, second-degree theft by unlawful taking, third-degree tampering with public records, and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.

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.”

Byron pleaded guilty last week to federal tax charges, admitting that he failed to report more than $40,000 in payments to the Internal Revenue Service in 2017 and 2018.    His federal sentencing is set for August 2.

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 resigns.  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.

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