Atlantic City Mayor Was In Clinic, Lawyer Says

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NEW YORK, Oct. 9 -- Atlantic City Mayor Robert W. Levy, who has not been seen publicly in nearly two weeks, was hospitalized late last month, his attorney said Tuesday, at a facility that says it specializes in "psychiatric and addictive illness."

The lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs, would not elaborate on what prompted Levy to check into the Carrier Clinic in Belle Meade, two hours north of Atlantic City. "He was there for a week, and he has been convalescing at home since last Thursday," Jacobs told the Associated Press.

Jacobs did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday from The Washington Post.

Atlantic City has been without its mayor since Sept. 26, when Levy called in sick, got into his government-issued Dodge Durango and vanished from public life, cutting off contact with his closest staffers.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Valerie H. Armstrong held a brief meeting Tuesday with Jacobs and City Council member G. Bruce Ward, who has asked her to declare that Levy has vacated his office. Armstrong then scheduled a hearing on the request for Friday.

The judge could alternatively rule that the mayor is on medical leave. The distinction, by state statute, decides who takes power in Levy's absence, said City Solicitor Kimberly A. Baldwin. City Business Administrator Domenic Cappella is serving as acting mayor in Levy's absence.

Levy, 64, a Democrat and first-term mayor, told an Atlantic City newspaper last fall that he had misrepresented his 20-year military service. Federal prosecutors are investigating whether his claims led to him receiving higher veterans' benefits than he would otherwise be due.

The mayor, who previously spent decades as the city's chief lifeguard, is hardly the first Atlantic City lawmaker to face legal trouble.

Half of the city's last eight mayors have been investigated for corruption. Earlier this year, three former City Council members pleaded guilty in a corruption case. One more was indicted in August for setting up another councilman to be videotaped having sex with a prostitute, and yet another is charged with driving drunk on his way home from a party celebrating the sex-video arrest.

"Was the office of the mayor cursed?" asked Ward, the council member. "It's not that. I think we do not have a good core complement of trained people who are ready to step into leadership."

"Only in Jersey," said David P. Rebovich, director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. Levy has "really left the city in the lurch, and caused enormous political discontent," he said.

Nicholas J. Morici, the mayor's press secretary, said he has not had any communication with his boss since Sept. 28. On that day, Jacobs, Levy's attorney, sent a letter to Cappella, the business administrator, advising that his client was hospitalized.

"I've been looking on media Web sites to get information," Morici said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company