An attorney has filed a complaint with several state agencies against current and former leaders in the town of Cicero.
Robert D. George, of Brewerton, lodged a similar complaint with the Cicero Town Board last month, alleging that Supervisor Jessica Zambrano’s relationship with town engineer Doug Wickman constituted a conflict of interest. The 87-page complaint he filed May 16 with the New York State Comptroller’s offices in Syracuse and Albany and the state Attorney General’s office in Syracuse, as well as the town board and ethics board, takes that allegation a step further.
“I believe a ‘culture of corruption’ and conspiracy of corruption has existed within the town of Cicero government, in conjunction with the Cicero Republican Committee, for the past several years, where all instrumentalities of government authority have been controlled for years by the same people,” George wrote.
In the complaint, George names Zambrano, as well as former Supervisor Jim Corl, Jr.; his father Jim Corl, Sr., the chairman of the Cicero Republican Committee; Vice Chairman Mark Mangicaro; former chairman and current chair of the Cicero Planning Board, Robert Smith; former New York State Assemblyman Michael Bragman; and C&S Engineers, the firm for which Wickman works and which has a contract to provide engineering services to the town. He also notes that Town Comptroller Shirlie Stuart is responsible for much of the town’s accounting, though he said he isn’t sure if she is part of the conspiracy. He specifically alleges misconduct in affairs with employees, affairs with property developers, the use of executive session by the town board under Corl, Jr., the lack of an independent auditing agency, the shared services agreement with the town of Salina for assessment services and more.
According to the complaint, George believes the problem begins with Bragman, now a property developer with several properties in the town of Cicero. George alleges that Bragman uses his political connections, including those with the Cicero Republican Committee, to his financial benefit.
“There are certain ‘chokepoints’ in the town of Cicero, and Mr. Bragman controls and has improper influence over the people in these ‘chokepoints,’” George wrote. Among those “chokepoints” are the planning board, the town supervisor’s office and the Cicero Republican Committee. George alleges that those agencies violate the town ethics code, if not the law, by providing Bragman with favorable contracts to the detriment of the town’s taxpayers.
George also reiterates his allegations against Zambrano and Wickman, the senior principal for C&S Engineering and town engineer for the town of Cicero. The two have been romantically involved since 2011 and share a residence within the town. George said the relationship between the two constitutes a conflict of interest, as Zambrano is benefiting from contracts she has signed.
Zambrano denies the allegations, calling them “political nonsense.”
“When I first realized my relationship with Doug was becoming more than casual, I asked our town attorney for an opinion of whether or not my situation would be a conflict of interest,” Zambrano told the Star-Review last month. She declined to comment further on the matter when approached for this article. “He reviewed the criteria for conflict of interest and researched the matter with other attorneys. The conclusion was that there is no conflict of interest because there is no direct or indirect financial benefit to me or to Doug. This conflict of interest allegation was raised with the District Attorney’s Office last year when I was running for office as supervisor. The DA’s office also found no conflict of interest. If there were to be a conflict, I would have abstained from any votes regarding the company at which Doug works on a part-time basis.”
Zambrano blamed political opponents conducting a smear campaign.
“The current complaint is nothing more than typical political nonsense that unfortunately occurs far too often these days,” she said.
But George’s new complaint doesn’t stop with her relationship with Wickman. He also alleges misconduct against Cicero town employees Wayne Dean, Lynnette Wood and others. He says Zambrano and Cicero Assessor Brad Brennan made a false allegation against Wood in order to fire her. According to the complaint, Wood was treated so badly that she was forced to quit her job.
George also alleges that the Corls, along with Smith and Mangicaro, used “threat, bribery or promise” to coerce elected officials to perform certain actions or vote in a certain way, and offered favorable contracts and other benefits to Bragman.
“James Corl, Sr., Mark Mangicaro and Jessica Zambrano have all created a climate of threat, fear, coercion and intimidation at the Cicero Town Hall,” George wrote.
Corl, Jr., said those claims, too, were false.
“Mr. George certainly has complained about many individuals and has made all sorts of allegations, all without merit,” Corl said in an email. “I am unsure what his objective or motivations are.”
George’s complaint asks for the above-named state agencies to look into the town’s finances as well as his specific allegations in search of criminal activity. He notes that he does not have proof of many of his allegations, though he says much of it is common knowledge among Cicero town employees. Those employees are afraid to speak up, however, under threat of retaliation.
“In my opinion, there has been an improper, unethical and I believe illegal co-mingling of the chairman and vice chairman of the Cicero Republican Committee, and other persons, improperly influencing the elected officials and other employees of the town of Cicero government (through coercion, threat or promise) for their personal benefit, and to the detriment of the town of Cicero taxpayer,” George wrote. “The corrupt officials I name on page 1 of this complaint are very powerful people who are not afraid to wield their power against anybody they perceive as a threat. They have done it in the past, and if permitted to continue in power, will do it in the future.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.