After Cornelio’s accusations became public, according to his lawsuit, the mayor retaliated by trying to get Cornelio fired. The city clerk works for the city council rather than the mayor, but Cornelio said DeMaria convinced his cousin City Councilor Anthony DiPierro to pressure other councilors to fire Cornelio. He also accused DeMaria of sending police to search his office to investigate alleged “voter fraud”.
“Mayor DeMaria abused his position to coerce Mr. Cornelio into extracting payment from him in violation of civil and constitutional law,” said his lawyer, John Tocci.
“The mayor’s decision to prosecute Mr. Cornelio was based on a misplaced belief that Mr. Cornelio would curl up,” Tocci said. “Instead, he placed Mr. Cornelio in the position [of] to fight for his reputation and for his family and Mr. Cornelio is ready for this fight.
Joseph Lipchitz, DeMaria’s lawyer, called Cornelio’s allegations “simply false” and said: “We are anxious to put Mr. Cornelio under oath, to put it mildly.”
DeMaria, in office since 2008, is known for playing a leading role in attracting Encore Boston Harbor Casino to Everett, which has become a major local employer and taxpayer. He was also embroiled in the controversy. In 2014, The Globe reported that several women said they had suffered unwanted advances from the mayor.
He survived, but some observers say the latest controversy could hurt him in Tuesday’s election.
DeMaria beat two opponents in the September primary – but together, his rivals won 54% of the vote.
City Councilor Fred Capone, DeMaria’s challenger in November, hopes this term will be DeMaria’s last.
“We are in desperate need of change in the city,” Capone said. “Our mayor has been in office for 14 years and he has forgotten the purpose of his work. It has moved from public service to self-service.
He said it would be “inappropriate” for a mayor to develop a property with a city employee, especially the site Cornelio was focusing on. The house is right next to a lot that the city is trying to develop.
“It raises a ton of red flags,” Capone said.
DeMaria and Cornelio agree that in 2019 they intended to be partners in a plan to develop a property at 43 Corey Street. What happened after that is a matter of bitter dispute.
DeMaria said he helped organize the financing to purchase the 200-year-old house, which was to be turned into a multi-unit project, for $ 900,000.
He said he had a condition opinion of the ethics commission saying that it was acceptable for him to be involved, even if the project would require the approval of several departments of the city. It was also located next to an urban renewal project funded and developed by the city.
After two years, DeMaria said, Cornelio decided to sell the property instead of developing it. DeMaria said he wanted to stick with it, but brought a buyer to Cornelio nonetheless.
Under their agreement, DeMaria said, he was entitled to 45% of the proceeds from any sale.
Cornelio has a completely different outlook. He said he bought and financed the property himself on August 22, 2019 – without any contribution from DeMaria. He made the down payment, got the financing, and paid all the expenses.
DeMaria, according to Cornelio’s lawsuit, was not involved in the purchase of the property or in any development decisions. He “abandoned” the project, Cornelio said.
“DeMaria wanted a part of the project anyway,” Cornelio said. After Cornelio teamed up with someone else, DeMaria pressured the other partner to step down, according to his lawsuit.
Ultimately, according to Cornelio’s lawsuit, the cost of paying for the Corey Street property left him “financially exhausted” and, in February 2021, he met DeMaria and other elected officials past and present of Everett at a restaurant in Medford.
Cornelio said he just wanted to sell the house. Initially, Cornelio said he “reluctantly” offered DeMaria 30 percent of the proceeds from a sale, but DeMaria responded by calling the offer “insulting,” according to the city clerk’s lawsuit.
Under pressure, Cornelio said, he eventually “agreed to appease DeMaria by giving her 45% of the profits to which Cornelio firmly argued DeMaria was not entitled.”
They signed an agreement, with Cornelio being reimbursed for his investment in the house and 55% of the profits, and DeMaria receiving 45%, which came to around $ 97,000.
A potential buyer offered $ 1.25 million for the house, but DeMaria reportedly insisted that the house be sold to a friend of his, James Grossman, who ultimately offered $ 1.3 million.
The house was sold in April 2021. Cornelio received approximately $ 315,000 of the proceeds from the sale.
Since Cornelio’s allegations became public, he has been harassed and threatened, according to the lawsuit.
“He has developed serious concerns, with good reason, that his reappointment as clerk is threatened because of threats from DeMaria and his allies”, alleges Cornelio’s trial.
Andrea Estes can be contacted at [email protected]