Zurik: Former mayor of Independence indicted on malfeasance charge

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A grand jury has indicted the former mayor of Independence on a charge of malfeasance in office.

The mayor was the subject of a FOX 8 investigation last May.

"I don't need to take anything from anybody," Michael Ragusa told us in a 2017 interview. " All I want to do is something good for the town.  I don't want to try to steal anything, I'm not a stealing person.  You can ask anyone in town that."

During our interview with former Independence mayor Michael Ragusa, he didn't mince words about the current mayor or the allegations of possible malfeasance in office.

"Believe me, there's none of that stuff happened," Ragusa told us. "The mayor is full of [expletive]. And you can tell him I said that."

A state grand jury indicted Michael Ragusa Monday on one count of malfeasance in office.

The charge is related to Ragusa's failure to pay into the state retirement system. Ragusa left the town with a $900,000 debt after refusing to pay the town's retirement share for its employees.

Ragusa told us the mayor before him failed to pay into the system, too. "I said, well, just continue doing what you've been doing," he recalled. "And that's what they did."

But according to the state retirement board, that may not be true. Before Ragusa took office, Independence paid retirement for 11 to 13 employees. When Ragusa took office, that number declined in 2014 and 2015, to zero.

Since the new mayor has taken office, the number is back up to 10 or 11.

"Didn't pay it the whole eight years he was in there," current Mayor Angelo Mannino told us.

The state retirement board sent 10 letters to Ragusa, asking him to pay into the system, at one point writing, "The fact that you have chosen to ignore this account is causing a hardship for your employees and costing your town additional money."

This battle between a former and current mayor comes with an interesting twist; they're first cousins.

"He's off himself," Ragusa said of Mannino. "I mean, he just brags about everything. He's one of these guys that, when you go hunting, he caught, he kills the most rabbits. When you go fishing, he catches the most fish, the biggest fish. Something like that, you know. That's the kind of guy he is."

"There's no hard feelings," Mannino said. "I don't have any hard feelings."

About two years after leaving office, allegations brought forward by his cousin now have Michael Ragusa fighting for his freedom.

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