Joseph Hugo Vicari (born 1946) is an American Republican Party politician who has served as a member of the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders since 1981.
Freeholder Vicari is a former principal with the Brick Public Schools in Brick Township. As of 2009, Vicari served as the superintendent of the Berkeley Township School District.
Vicari served as a member of Toms River Township (then Dover Township) Committee from 1980-1994. During his tenure he served as Mayor of Toms River five times.
As a Freeholder, Vicari was responsible for the development of programs such as the "Buy in Ocean County" program and the Business Help Fair.
Vicari lost his job as the Berkeley schools superintendent in July 2009. He said he did not accept unemployment insurance as it would have been "immoral to take it." But according to state records, Vicari retired on July 1, 2009. His final base salary was $162,080, for which he receives an annual pension of $97,837. In 2006, he also cashed out his pension as an elected official for which he receives $12,157. In addition to his pensions, he receives an annual stipend of $30,000 as a freeholder.
On April 22, 2014, Vicari was the defendant in a sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by Rosemary Mennona, who is the general supervisor of building services for Ocean County.
More recently Vicari was questioned about a $25,000 "pizza connection". In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a state of emergency had been declared by Governor Christie. That state of emergency allowed the Ocean County freeholders to bypass normal bidding laws and order $25,000 worth of pizzas, calzones, salads, cannolis and other food from the husband of Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari's secretary. Vicari said the food order was "done within the law" because the normal bidding process was suspended by the state of emergency. He said that the order to Lakehurst Pizza and Luigi's Restaurant, best known as Luigi's in Lakehurst, was made because it was the only eatery open at the time. (According to county officials, Luigi's was the only pizzeria up and running that had a history of doing business with the county.) The $25,000 bill was the largest food order issued by the county following the storm. A review by the Asbury Park Press found that at least two other pizzerias in Toms River, and much closer than the 18 minute drive from Lakehurst, were open immediately after the storm. Neither received any county food orders.
An October 2014 article in the Asbury Park Press indicated that the F.B.I. investigation focuses on county contracts awarded through the Buildings and Grounds Department where Vicari is the Freeholder Liaison. The former Supervisor of that department stated that the F.B.I. had visited his home and questioned him about certain contracts. Neither the F.B.I. nor the U.S. Attorney for the State of New Jersey commented.
Immediately after winning re-election, Vicari sued his political opponent, Timothy Ryan, for defamation of character. With much fanfare and press coverage, Vicari alleged that Ryan had lied about him during the campaign and decreed that he was going to put a stop to "dirty campaign tactics".
As depositions for vicari's lawsuit were ordered, an Ocean County contractor, Anthony Serchio, claimed (under oath) that Vicari "shook him down". The sworn statement included charges of bribery, extortion and a death threat.
Vicari's opponent, Ryan, filed a counter-claim against Vicari for deprivation of first amendment rights for which Vicari sought taxpayer funded legal defense. His fellow Freeholder's denied his bid stating, in part, that he had filed his lawsuit despite being warned not to do so. Ocean County taxpayers are already funding Vicari's legal defense in another, unrelated lawsuit — a sexual harassment and discrimination claim filed by Rosemary Mennona, the county's general supervisor of building services. Freeholder John Bartlett has said the county government has indemnified Vicari in that litigation because the allegations made by Mennona against Vicari are directly connected to his service as a freeholder.
On December 2, 2015 Vicari dropped his lawsuit against Ryan and declared victory. “In 2014, after 35 years in public office, I was the target of what was the worst and dirtiest campaign in Ocean County’s political history,” he said. “I sent a message that slanderous and harassing campaign techniques will not be tolerated in Ocean County. That was my goal, and it has been met. If this case continued to trial, Vicari said, “I would be victorious.”
Ryan responded to the dismissal by saying “There’s no question now that every charge we made in our campaign was true and that the FBI conducted at least two dozen interviews with various individuals investigating charges that Vicari is corrupt,” Ryan said in a prepared statement.
Despite Mr. Ryan's claims that Freeholder Vicari was under investigation, no evidence of this was ever found. The Asbury Park Press, which featured many of the anti-Vicari stories, later went on to endorse Freeholder Vicari for re-election when Mr. Ryan was unable to produce any evidence of any investigation by the FBI. His personal relationship with the claimants has also been questioned.