Image courtesy city of Everett

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria is suing a local news site and the city clerk for defamation after the recent publication of articles claiming he extorted $96,000 in connection with a real estate transaction.

The lawsuit alleges that the Everett Leader Herald’s owners have waged a campaign against DeMaria as payback for his opposition to renewing licenses for roominghouses they owned in the city during the 1990s, when DeMaria was an alderman. DeMaria claims that the Philbin family purchased the weekly newspaper and web site in 2017 as an outlet to attack him. The Boston Herald first reported the lawsuit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court.

The bulk of the complaint focuses on the newspaper’s coverage leading up to the Sept. 21 preliminary mayoral election, including details of the mayor’s interest in acquiring a residential property at 43 Corey St.

In May 2019, DeMaria approached City Clerk Sergio Cornelio about partnering on the acquisition. Although the two officials submitted an offer to purchase the property, Cornelio was listed as the only buyer on the final $900,000 transaction, while DeMaria arranged the financing from Everett Bank, the complaint states. 

“Under the agreement, Mr. Cornelio would pay the loan and Mr. DeMaria would obtain the architects, contractors and other professionals,” the lawsuit states.

In August 2020, DeMaria filed a disclosure with the city clerk of his ownership interest in the commercially-zoned property, stating that the property might seek approval for conversion into multiple housing units and that he intended to support a zoning amendment making it easier for property owners to convert residential structures into smaller units.

The DeMaria-Cornelio partnership ultimately decided to sell the property for $1.3 million, and DeMaria received $96,000 which constituted 45 percent of the proceeds, the lawsuit states.

On Sept. 8, the Leader Herald published an article stating that the mayor told Cornelio “nothing would be developed on the site if he didn’t receive the $96,000 payment. He also threatened to cut the city clerk’s office budget and place [his] future in jeopardy if [he] did not pay him,” the complaint states.

“Given the Leader Herald’s past practice of fabricating quotes and articles to assert that Mr. DeMaria is somehow engaged in cirminal conduct, there is good reason to suspect that the quotes atributed to Mr. Cornelio were fabricated by the Leader Herald defendants,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit names Cornelio, the newspaper and its represeentatives Joshua Resnek and Matthew and Andrew Philbin as defendants, and seeks unspecified damages.

The Leader Herald and Cornelio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Everett Mayor Sues City Clerk and Newspaper for Defamation

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min