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Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron. (Photo: City of Wildwood).

Wildwood mayor pleads guilty to federal tax charges

If he resigns, replacement will be chosen by two remaining commissioners – one of whom is also under indictment

By Joey Fox, March 24 2023 1:51 pm

Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron pled guilty to federal tax charges today, potentially setting up a complex process to choose a new mayor in the Cape May County city.

According to U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger, Byron received more than $40,000 in payments in 2017 and 2018 that he did not report to the IRS. The charges – two counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent tax returns – each carry a maximum potential sentence of three years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Byron’s sentencing is scheduled for August 2, but he may resign before then. If he does, it will be up to Wildwood’s two remaining city commissioners to choose his replacement as mayor – which could be problematic, given that one of those two commissioners is also under indictment on separate state charges.

In June 2022, Byron, City Commissioner Steve Mikulski, and former Mayor Ernest Troiano were charged with submitting fraudulent records and illegally taking state health benefits. Just yesterday, the trio pled not guilty to the charges, which were brought by the state attorney general’s office.

Since Wildwood is a nonpartisan town, it would fall to Mikulski and City Commissioner Krista Fitzsimmons to choose the next mayor from among themselves. But if Mikulski recuses himself or resigns because of his own legal troubles, Fitzsimmons can’t assemble a quorum on her own, meaning that Gov. Phil Murphy would have to step in and appoint interim commissioners.

Regardless, all three commissioner seats are up for election this year, so whatever happens with Byron’s seat, voters will get a say in the matter in November.

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