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Old 06-11-2008, 11:25 AM
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Municipal Clerk Indicted

Suspended Cliffside deputy clerk indicted
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Last updated: Wednesday June 11, 2008, EDT 8:23 AM
Bergen Record

Carol Lynn Palma, the suspended deputy municipal clerk of Cliffside Park, was indicted by a Bergen County grand jury today on charges of theft and official misconduct.

Palma is accused of taking part in a scheme in which former schools Superintendent Robert Paladino diverted more than $110,000 in school funds to Palma and former municipal clerk Brian McGuirt, Bergen County prosecutors said.

Authorities said they found improper vouchers and virtually no invoices for the series of payments from 2000 to 2006, which were never approved by the Board of Education.

“I am sorry to hear about today’s indictment,” Cliffside Park Mayor Gerald Calabrese said in a statement this afternoon. “Carol Lynn Palma has worked hard on behalf of the residents of Cliffside Park and, hopefully, she will have an opportunity to put this chapter in her life behind her in the near future.”

Palma couldn't be reached for comment. Her attorney, Paul Faugno, said she “absolutely” maintains her innocence.

Palma did work for the school board for many years and filled out the necessary paperwork to receive payment, Faugno said.

“That shows there was no criminal intent on her part,” he said.

She couldn't have committed theft or official misconduct because she had no control over how the payment process worked, Faugno said.

Palma, McGuirt and Paladino were charged early last year following an investigation into irregular payments made by Paladino, authorities said.

Paladino pleaded guilty to theft and conspiracy in Superior Court in Hackensack last year and is now serving a three-year probationary term. Paladino admitted that he agreed to make payments to McGuirt and Palma and to conceal the payments from the school board, prosecutors said. He also agreed to testify against the two clerks, they said.

McGuirt, who had been the borough clerk since 1989, has entered a pre-trial intervention program, a form of probation for some first-time offenders, prosecutors said.

As part of the resolution of their cases, Paladino and McGuirt both agreed to give up their jobs and are barred from public employment, prosecutors said. The two also paid more than $84,000 in restitution to the school board.

The six-count indictment returned Tuesday alleges that Palma submitted false purchase orders to receive more than $50,000. It also alleges that she filed false state tax returns for several years without including those payments.

Palma worked for the borough for 24 years until she was suspended in February 2007. Borough spokesman Bill Maer said today that she remains on a paid suspension pending the outcome of her case. Her annual salary is $62,000, he said.

Palma will be scheduled for an arraignment in Superior Court in Hackensack within the next four weeks. If convicted of official misconduct – the most serious offense in the indictment – she faces up to 10 years in prison.

E-mail: markos@northjersey.com

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