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Given a chance to choose virtue over vice, we should come down on the side of virtue, if only because this makes for a quiet, undisturbed life. Naturally, we don’t want to push ourselves forward as virtue exemplars. That would be to give the game away. It is always best to be virtuous without seeming to be so, not to seem virtuous while hiding from the world our horns and cloven hooves. This takes a great deal of modesty and is beyond the scope of the average politician, who must stretch the truth – artfully, one hopes -- cheat and steal, often on the advice of others, to maintain his or her political status.
The horns and hooves have now shown themselves during the trial of former Democrat Representative and West Haven city employee Michael DiMassa.
“The personal and professional life of Michael DiMassa,” CTMirror reported, ”was on full display in federal court on Tuesday as lawyers scrutinized his finances, his gambling habits and his ‘sexual escapades.’”
Ah! “Sexual escapades!” That should catch the attention of a campaign-weary public that cynically tends to drowse through expected political corruption.
There was no shortage of political corruption in Mayor Nancy Rossi’s West Haven. Previous to serving the town of West Haven -- and himself! – as member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, representing District 116, DiMassa was a respected assistant to the West Haven city council.
As November tail-spinned into December, DiMassa, who may have pleaded to reduced charges, appeared as a prosecution witness against John Trasacco, “a Branford resident who allegedly conspired with DiMassa to steal more than $430,000 from the city,” according to CTMirror.
The self-confessed corruption vulture had now become, at the not so gentle urging of prosecutors, a singing canary.
Playing the part of a prosecution star witness, DiMassa has not been what one would call a sympathetic character. His flaws ran deep. He was, ticking off all of the seven deadly sins, afflicted with pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. Happily for moral delinquents, the American justice system does not punish moral failings. If it did so, many if not most politicians who cut ethical corners for reasons of status and power would be viewing the passing parade through iron bars.
The charges against Trasacco have yet to be adjudicated. His fate now lies in the hands of a jury, but DiMassa will be spared, after having pleaded guilty to three federal conspiracy charges, future pawing by prosecutors who have now set their sights on Trasacco.
“West Haven officials who took the stand,” CTMirror reported, “also told the jury that they never received any of the masks and other services Trasacco’s businesses were paid to deliver.” However, there was no “conspiracy” between DiMassa and Trasacco, the defense is expected to argue in summation.
Andrew Giering, one of Trasacco’s attorneys, told the judge, “At most, this is a case of an underperforming contractor.” While it was true that DiMassa may have helped Trasacco get the contracts with the city because of their personal relationship, Giering said, this was “par for the course” in West Haven. “It was in no way unusual or suspicious. Not in this city. Not at this time.”
“One high-profile witness exited the courthouse without ever being called in front of the jury, CTMirror reported. “West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi, a Democrat who is serving her third term in office, sat in a hallway in the federal courthouse in Hartford for most the day, in the expectation that she would be called as a witness for the defense.” The mayor was not called to testify, narrowly avoiding unwanted scrutiny.
On November 7, 2021, WTNH Channel 8 reported that Rossi had prevailed over her Republican challenger, Barry Lee Cohen, by a razor thin 33 votes.
On a recount, Cohen attorney Vincent Marino alleged to ballot irregularities. “The outer envelopes [of absentee ballots] are supposed to be properly endorsed by the clerk,” Marino said. “Here, we have many envelopes that are missing dates of receipt, times of receipt, or signatures.”
Cohen called upon Rossi to resign, “pointing to the ongoing investigation into the alleged misuse of the city’s COVID relief money.”
“This mayor should resign,” Cohen said, “and she should resign as of [Sunday night]. Because it’s not about winning or losing, this city is really going to be reeling because there’s going to be more arrests.”
Rossi, the “par for the course” Democrat Mayor of West Haven, likely was reeling with joy at having so narrowly escaped being called to render testimony under oath as a witness for the defense of the indefensible DiMassa.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.