A Harrison Democratic Party district leader and former running mate of Supervisor Joan Walsh was arraigned Tuesday in connection with a prank involving unsolicited pizza ordered to the mayor's home.
Police arrested Maria Polera on July 12 after an investigation revealed she had been ordering the pizzas to Walsh's residence in West Harrison for the last six to eight months, said Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini. Polera was charged with placing orders six times, although police believe the fake orders were sent in more often than that.
"I think that there were probably 12 to 14 different deliveries, but we were only able to charge her with six," said Marraccini, who said there were at least two pizzas in every order.
Polera faces a misdemeanor theft of services charge and a charge of second-degree harassment—a violation—and was arraigned in front of Judge Ronald Bianchi. She pleaded not guilty to all charges and quickly left the court room with her attorney George Galgano. She was released without bail and is due back in court Aug. 9.
Polera ran on the same ticket as Walsh for receiver of taxes in 2007 and 2009 but lost each time. She has been serving as a district leader for the Harrison Democratic Party, but she may no longer hold that position according to Village Attorney Robert Paladino.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather when they told me that they had arrested the person and who it was," Paladino said. "I was shocked."
Two sources have told Patch on a condition of anonymity that Polera placed the orders because she was upset about crude comments Walsh had made to her earlier this year. Both sources specifically cited comments by the mayor about Polera's "body odor" and that Polera was "unelectable".
The second source also said Polera watched the deliveries being made while hiding out nearby.
Walsh was out of her office throughout the day Tuesday and unavailable for comment. Paladino said after speaking with the mayor she was "surprised and disappointed" by the news.
"I've known Maria for years, and she's a very nice lady," he said. "I don't know what motivated her to do this, honest to God."
Marraccini estimated the most recent faulty order was made in late May, about the same time police began their investigation.
"We did a thorough investigation and we filed the charges that we thought were applicable or appropriate," Marraccini said.
This is the second high-profile issue to make its way through town hall this year. In February six then-town employees were charged with allegedly . All of those charged have since either resigned, retired or been fired from town employment.
"We think there's a magnet on the roof that seems to be attracting some odd occurrences," Paladino said, "but hopefully the good news is this is it, but you never know."
Updates to come as this story develops.