Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo, arrested last month on corruption charges, has residents in the Mercer County township buzzing over a planned fundraiser to pay for his legal defense.
The invite to the June 5 event is vague on how the $125 per head will be spent, saying only that after expenses the proceeds will go “directly to John.”
Reached today, Bencivengo said after the fundraiser – to be held at Spigola on Route 130 – was planned he set up a legal defense fund and the proceeds of the event will go to that. New invitations reflect the account, he said.
Bencivengo said he checked in with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission on the event, but was told the campaign finance watchdog had no opinion because it was not an election-related affair.
Bencivengo has some high-priced defense in Jerome Ballarotto, but some in the township aren’t sure he should be advertisng his money needs since cash woes seem to be what got him here in the first place.
“I’m not sure who would go to something like that,” said one township source.
At least once source questioned the ethics of having a fundraiser not covered by ELEC rules, asking what’s to stop a contractor from buying 100 tickets to the shindig in hopes of getting a foot in the door in Hamilton.
Bencivengo was arrested last month and charged with attempted extortion after he allegedly took a bribe in exchange for using his influence to secure a contract for an insurance broker. The broker was wired during the exchange and excerpts of the recording show Bencivengo telling the broker he is unable to pay his property taxes and may need “help.”