Jerry Mezzatesta

CHARLESTON - Special Judge C. Reeves Taylor ordered Tuesday that former House Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta to pay a $2,000 fine he incurred for violating ethical guidelines.

Mezzatesta was assessed the fine in 2005 when it was found that he improperly solicited grants for the Hampshire County school system, then tried to absolve himself with a fake letter to the ethics panel, which then voted to fine him the maximum amount for two violations.

He refused to pay the fine, however, saying the ethics panel never proved his guilt. He was the first public official to resist paying such a fine in the 17-year history of the ethics panel.

Taylor, though, has decided against the wishes of Mezzatesta, who will have 30 days to pay the fine after Taylor signs it.

Mezzatesta, who lives in Romney, never admitted to breaking the law. He signed a "conciliation agreement," acknowledging he violated the ethics act and avoiding a public hearing.

After the fine was ordered, he changed his mind and said he did not violate the act in a letter through attorney Deirdre Purdy.

She says the ethics panel only told Mezzatesta that it could impose fines, not that it would.

A $75,000 grant Mezzatesta solicited for the Hampshire school system is also under investigation. School employees and volunteer firefighters testified in March before a grand jury about the matter.

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