Son-in-law tells on Fumo

Former Senate aide testifies about working on pol's mansion on taxpayer's dime

Posted: October 24, 2008

They were once close, the son-in-law and the senator. And for five years, from 1997 to 2002, Christian Marrone was one of Vince Fumo's most trusted Senate aides.

But when Fumo's one-time legislative assistant entered a federal courtroom yesterday to testify against his old boss, Fumo gave little hint that he knew him.

Fumo sat expressionless as Marrone told a jury that he spent much of his first 18 months on the job supervising renovations on Fumo's 27-room mansion, on Green Street near 23rd, while taxpayers paid his $29,000-a-year salary.

Marrone, 33, a big, bespectacled, brawny man, is married to Fumo's oldest daughter, Nicole. Marrone and his wife have been estranged from the senator since just before their marriage in 2003.

Outside the courtroom, after Marrone, looking dapper in a dark-blue suit, crisp white shirt, tie, pocket square and a flag pin in his lapel, had concluded his testimony, Fumo walked past his daughter, and the two briefly looked at each other as if they were strangers but did not say anything.

Marrone now lives in Virginia with his wife and two young daughters. He works at the Department of Defense as a congressional liaison on defense-related matters.

Marrone, who testified for about 30 minutes yesterday, told the jury that six weeks after he was hired, he was told by Roseanne Pauciello, a top aide in Fumo's Tasker Street office, that the senator had a project he wanted him to take on.

"Were you eager to take on the new assignment?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease.

"Yeah, I was just out of college . . . whatever he wanted me to do," Marrone replied.

Marrone said that he initially drove to the house and soon realized "how daunting" his assignment was.

The floors weren't finished, there was no heat in the house, and electrical, plumbing and other major work had yet to be completed.

Marrone described a typical workday while he was assigned to the house project:

He usually arrived at Fumo's Tasker Street office around 8 a.m., worked up a list of things he wanted contractors at the house to work on and then drove to Fumo's home at about 9:30.

After checking up on various contractors, Marrone said that he returned to Fumo's Tasker Street office and called a carpenter who was working on the house and was showing Marrone the ropes.

He said he worked up additional lists of things that needed to be done by the contractors.

And there were plenty of contractors to babysit, too - electrical, plumbing, painting, waterproofing, tile work, a guy working on the brownstone exterior and another working on an elevator, to name just a few.

Then, after lunch, he'd drive back up to the house at around 2:30, he said, to check on how much progress had been made on the renovations.

Marrone said that he reported directly to Fumo while managing the house project.

He said that he met with Fumo at the house, typically on Monday mornings, before Fumo left for Harrisburg.

During the week, Fumo would dictate about five to 10 memos for Marrone and later send him e-mails about things he wanted Marrone to follow up on with the various contractors.

On other occasions, Marrone and the senator would talk by telephone.

Marrone testified that he had no involvement in paying contractors.

"All the bills went to Ruth," Marrone said.

"Ruth Arnao?" asked Pease.

"Yes," replied Marrone, noting that Arnao, Fumo's co-defendant, sometimes asked Marrone about the house project and discussed invoices from contractors with him.

"My understanding is Ruth cut the checks for the contractors," Marrone said.

Fumo and Arnao are charged with conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and related tax offenses.

W. Russell Faber, the chief clerk of the Senate, testified Wednesday that senators may not use staffers to do personal and political favors for them on Senate time.

The trial is expected to last at least three months.

Fumo's attorney, Dennis J. Cogan, said in his opening statement Wednesday that Marrone was a "disgruntled" former aide who had not spoken with Fumo in years.

Marrone will return to the witness stand on Monday, when the trial resumes. *