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Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at or follow me @awisefool.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hamilton department director described as Ljuba's 'best friend' gets sacked

Before a jury has reached a verdict in the Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo federal corruption case, one of the central figures from the testimony has lost her job.
Hamilton Business Administrator John Ricci, who was named acting mayor while Bencivengo stands trial, said he fired Cathy Tramontana, the director of the Department of Health and Recreation for the township, Monday.
Asked whether the termination was connected with the testimony about her at Bencivengo’s trial, he said he would only give the reason the township had given her for her firing.
“We have lost confidence in her ability to perform her duties and therefore she is being terminated,” he said.
Ricci said department directors have no contracts or tenure and serve “at the pleasure of the mayor.”
Ricci said he asked for her resignation Friday, but she refused. She will remain on the town’s payroll for 20 days while she can appeal to the town council, but, Ricci said, will stop not be at her job effective immediately.
The town council can reinstate her as a director with a two thirds vote, in this case four council members.
Ricci said he did not consult with Bencivengo about Cathy Tramontana before he fired her, but informed Bencivengo and the council after he did so. She got the job after Bencivengo was first elected in 2007.
Her husband, Joe Tramontana, has been placed on paid administrative leave from his job as the business administrator for the Hamilton Township School District.
Marliese Ljuba, the prosecution’s key witness against Bencivengo, described Cathy Tramontana as her best friend when she testified that she gave $12,400 in bribes to the mayor in exchange for his influence on the school board.
The defense has made Ljuba’s credibility an issue at trial, which goes to the jury for deliberations today. Ljuba testified that while she was the insurance broker for Hamilton Township School District, she gave the Tramontanas gifts, trips and meals.
In addition, Ljuba testified she told the Tramontanas about her recording Bencivengo for the FBI investigation in June 2011, shortly after she began cooperating in the case.
She did not tell investigators she had told the Tramontanas until June 2012, when Joe Tramontana was approached by the FBI and Ljuba had received a nonprosecution agreement.

Editor's note: Marliese Ljuba testified at length in the trial of former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo that she paid certain people to act as “straw donors” to political campaigns.  The Trentonian and Trenton Times incorrectly reported at various times that Joe and/or Cathy Tramontana were used by Ljuba as “straw donors.”  However, transcripts of Ljuba’s testimony show that Ljuba never accused Joe or Cathy Tramontana of being used as “straw donors.”   In addition, it has been reported that Cathy Tramontana received “money” from Ljuba.  However, Ljuba only testified that she paid for meals and trips with the Tramontanas, a contention which the Tramontanas dispute.


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