BY MICHAEL RICONDA
During his several runs from office in the Village of Suffern, former Mayor Dagan LaCorte gained himself the reputation of being something of a hothead.
But one instance he might regret more than others. Though nobody but LaCorte knows exactly what happened at some point late during the 2009 campaign, LaCorte got into a heated altercations with elderly Democratic Party activist Jack Rosenberg. When all was said and done Rosenberg blacked out and found his anti-LaCorte literature strewn across the area.
Reliable village sources confirm the incident led to a civil settlement of $18,000 for injuring an elderly man.
Rosenberg, a local activist and former village trustee, was campaigning for LaCorte’s then mayoral opponent John Keegan. Rosenberg was confronted by LaCorte, who Rosenberg claimed ripped a bag containing leaflets out of his hands. “He denied me my first amendment right,” exclaims Rosenberg, still animated about the incident over three years later.
According to his version of events, when Rosenberg attempted to follow after LaCorte, he fainted and was injured. LaCorte was charged with petit larceny but ultimately received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, an offer to criminal defendants expunging their records provided they do not commit any more crimes for a certain period of time.
Although he was not the newspaper’s source for the reported 18K figure, Rosenberg noted the final amount paid to him by LaCorte “was much more than a nuisance settlement.”
Perhaps less embarrassing, LaCorte also had a spat with the far-from beloved supervisor of Ramapo, Christopher St. Lawrence. According to LaCorte, St. Lawrence used vile language in front of his daughter causing him to snap and briefly strangle the supervisor.
St. Lawrence confirmed to the Rockland County Times that LaCorte had accosted him several years ago at the public Memorial Day event.
Another incident in 2009 also involved LaCorte’s election campaign. According to a written deposition given to Suffern Police by Richard DeStefano, LaCorte confronted DeStefano on Maplewood Drive in Suffern, yelling at him, spitting in his face and smacking him. The reason for the assault was not described. LaCorte claimed his rival also engaged in similar behavior.
Though DeStefano’s brother James stands by his brother’s original story, the police report indicates that workers at a nearby diner cast uncertainty on Destefano’s timeframe. According to Destefano, the incident happened at some point around 6:15 a.m., but a waitress claimed LaCorte arrived to meet a group for breakfast sometime between 6:05 and 6:10 a.m. Richard DeStefano
The supposed altercation is just one instance of bad blood between Destefano and LaCorte. During the mayoral race, LaCorte claimed opponent John Keegan recruited his brother-in-law James DeStefano to serve as his running mate for Village Trustee.
According to a mailing issued by LaCorte, Keegan recruited DeStefano’s brother Richard to perform repairs and construction work for the village, including an emergency repair job for the village pool for which Richard was not the lowest bidder. LaCorte claimed this was due to nepotism.
The conflict intensified when LaCorte ran a tongue-in-cheek ad likening the family ties to the television show “All in the Family.” The DeStefanos reacted strongly, with John referring to it as a “slanderous attack” rooted in negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.
The controversy surrounding Richard’s winning bid was not initially a problem for LaCorte, who explained in an email between board members that he supported DeStefano’s selection in spite of his high bid. “Rich has done major jobs all across the country and we can’t afford to have this not be done right,” LaCorte wrote in the email.
In fact, Keegan had sought to disqualify his brother-in-law due to appearances of impropriety, but LaCorte overrode his concerns. Nonetheless, when election season heated up, LaCorte used the instance to arouse suspicion of nepotism.
On the other side of the campaign, the DeStefanos also used negative campaign tactics. All this over a job that doesn’t even pay $50,000 a year. Oy vey!