City Councilman Joe Berardi was arrested Friday afternoon at City Hall

Posted in the Canton Forum

Since: Dec 07

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#1 Apr 3, 2009
By KEVIN SAMPIER
of the Journal Star
Posted Apr 03, 2009 @ 09:50 PM
CANTON

City Councilman Joe Berardi was arrested Friday afternoon at City Hall after he requested a copy of the city's proposed budget but was told he couldn't have one - an incident his wife says she captured on video.

"I knew I better have some witnesses," Berardi said shortly after being released from police custody and being booked at the Canton Police Department on a charge of criminal trespass. "I took my wife and she videotaped the whole thing."

Berardi said he went to City Hall to get a copy of the proposed budget, which he says was supposed to be on file for public inspection, but several department heads told him they could not give him a copy or they didn't have a copy to give him.

Berardi said the 13 copies for City Council members were clearly visible on the floor in Budget Director John Favorita's office, but Favorita told him he couldn't have a copy until the April 8 council meeting based on orders from Mayor Kevin Meade.

"The next thing I know, the Police Chief (Dan Taylor) was there with another officer," Berardi said.

Taylor said Berardi was arrested because he was inside an office in City Hall while employees of that office were not present and was told to wait in the hallway but refused.

"I said,'I'm an alderman. I've got just as much right to be in this building as everybody else, and I want a copy of the budget,' " Berardi said.

He was issued a notice to appear at 9 a.m. May 7 in Fulton County court.

Berardi said withholding the proposed budget until Wednesday, the day after the election in which Meade is running for mayor against Jerry Bohler, was a political tactic.

Meade denied the allegation and said he didn't know much about the arrest because he was out of town at the time. Favorita could not be reached for comment.

When asked about the incident Friday, Meade initially said Berardi had a copy.

"He's got a copy of the budget," Meade said. "The budget was available for inspection since Wednesday."

But Meade later said Berardi was offered a copy at City Hall and didn't take it.

About a half hour later, police delivered a copy to Berardi's house.

Meade said the incident was just a misunderstanding. The city is required to distribute information packets to council members at least 48 hours before a meeting. Because the next meeting was moved from next Tuesday to Wednesday, there was some confusion about whether or not the packets would be sent out Friday or Monday, Meade said.

Meade also said the allegation that he wanted to withhold the budget until after the election to prevent any damage it may cause to his campaign is unfounded.

"It's certainly not my budget," Meade said. "It's the budget of the department heads. The mayor does not set the budget. The mayor does not pass the budget."

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