In Atlantic County, the tangled web of friendships and political alliances has reared its ugly head again.
Today’s example is Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, whose good friend Frank Barbera, a real estate broker and former Atlantic County GOP treasurer, was arrested earlier this week for allegedly paying bribes to disgraced former city council president Craig Callaway. Talk about Barbera being under federal investigation had circulated for months, and his suicide attempt last month only heightened expectations that he would soon be arrested.
Democrats hit Levinson hard this afternoon on behalf of his opponent, Sheriff Jim McGettigan, with County Chairman Ron Ruff calling Barbera his “closest confidant and fundraiser.”
Ruff sent out a press release with 14 questions prodding Levinson about his relationship with Barbera, ranging from whether federal investigators interviewed him to how much Atlantic County paid Barbera in real estate commissions.
“It’s time for Dennis ‘Slippery Fish’ Levinson to come clean, once and for all, and explain what he knows, when he knew it and why he has failed as a leader to speak out against GOP corruption in Atlantic County,” said Ruff.
Levinson said that Barbera was never given a real estate commission and that he is not aware of any campaign contributions from him within the last year.
“He’s not my closest friend and confidante – he’s a friend,” said Levinson. “We’ll let justice take its course. If he’s guilty he should pay a penalty.”
While he wouldn’t say whether he was interviewed by federal investigators, Levinson said he was insured that he did nothing wrong and was never a target of any federal investigation.
Levinson said that McGettigan shouldn’t throw stones as the official who swore in Craig Callaway as an Atlantic City Councilman in 2002, who Barbera is accused of bribing. Callaway is currently serving a 40 month prison term for corruption, pointing to radio host Harry Hurley’s Web site, which quotes McGettigan as saying “God Bless Craig Callaway, he’s my brother.”
“Everyone knew Craig Calloway’s reputation when Jim McGettigan volunteered to swear him in, when everyone else in Atlantic County refused,” said Levinson, who added that Ruff had used to pay the Callaway family for a get out the vote effort before he started feuding with them.
“We can go on and on if you want to take on who Frank Barbera’s friends are,” said Levinson. “Singling me out is kind of interesting. Here is an unelected republican who is making news when you have dozens of democrats who are convicted.”