Was recently selected to be City Manager for Sarasota Florida. Till 2004, Bartolotta was City Manager for Jupiter Florida After his Sarasota selection, it was discovered Mr. Bartolotta was once accused of abusing his invalid wife when she was in the hospital.(Loretta Bartolotta has since passed away)
What may or may have happened with Loretta Bartolotta will come down to he said, she said. Being a caregiver is stressful and even t he best of spouses or family members can crack at times. I've also from personal experience, have heard of false abuse claims. The mother of my four-year-old Godson was accused of abuse some three years ago. Just based on dark blotches on her son's skin. Something that's common in Asian children(Both of the boy's parents are Filipino) The issue concerning Sarasota in my opinion, is that Mr. Bartolotta didn't reveal these accusations before applying for the job. That calls into question how much city officials can trust their new City Manager. Robert Bartolotta made the decision not to inform the city, and really he should have. This puts his relationship with city officials on a bad footing from the very start. The issue of whether Mr. Bartolotta can be trusted in his new job, is already coming into question before he has even worked one day. Is that the proper way for a city to start off with its new city Manager?
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JUPITER -- Robert Bartolotta was in Room 337 at Jupiter Medical Center one Sunday morning, visiting his gravely ill wife of 28 years, when a hospital secretary clocked in for her overtime shift at the nurse's station across the hall.
What happened after that became the question two investigations attempted to answer four years before Bartolotta applied for Sarasota's city manager position. Neither investigation found enough evidence to support the secretary's accusation that she saw Bartolotta -- then the Jupiter town manager -- hit his bed-ridden wife.
But the allegations resurfaced two days after the Sarasota City Commission unanimously selected Bartolotta, 59, as its next city manager.
Commissioners were stunned, and embarrassed, that the man they had just praised for his integrity, openness and ethics had not told them about this. They decided to delay approving Bartolotta's $170,000-a-year contract to take a more critical look at his background.
Two representatives from the city will be in Jupiter today to do that. Their inquiries will reach back to that Sunday more than four years ago.
Choking or abuse?
Margaret Dent ordinarily worked in the intensive care unit at Jupiter Medical Center. But on March 9, 2003, she was seated at a nurse's station on a different floor when she heard Bartolotta yelling at his wife around 8:15 a.m., according to police reports. Dent told investigators she could see into Room 337 through the open door.
Loretta Bartolotta, 60, needed to do her physical therapy. Dent said she heard Robert Bartolotta telling his wife to sit up in a chair and to walk around.
"She was whining," Dent said in a taped statement. "He was yelling to her, and he said, 'I'm going to slap you.'"
Before Bartolotta finished the word "slap," he had struck his wife across her left cheek, Dent told police. Bartolotta looked up and saw her, then immediately closed the door to his wife's room.
Dent informed her supervisor, a nurse, police reports show. The nurse, Margaret Pizzo, told police she opened the door to the room and saw Bartolotta standing at the foot of his wife's bed.
Pizzo said she found no redness on Loretta Bartolotta, who said she "felt warm and short of breath," records show. Robert Bartolotta said his wife had been choking on coffee.
"He didn't ask for any kind of assistance," Dent said, adding that it was unusual for a patient as ill as Loretta Bartolotta to have the hospital room door closed.
Bartolotta said no one confronted him about the allegation at the time, and that his wife's door was "closed half the time and it was open half the time" because of noise from the nurse's station.
'Never laid a hand on me'
When Robert and Loretta Bartolotta's daughter, Christine Tate, arrived at Room 337 around 10 a.m. that Sunday, her father was reading the newspaper, she told investigators. Her mother was awake and wished her a happy birthday.
Loretta Bartolotta was lying in bed with her eyes closed when two Jupiter police officers arrived more than five hours later, about 3:30 p.m.
Robert Bartolotta had not returned from lunch.
The officers told Tate they were investigating an allegation that her father had hit her mother earlier that morning.
Prior to that, "nobody said anything" about the allegation made over seven hours earlier, Tate said in a recorded statement.
"If you see something or you thought you saw something, then come in and take care of my mom. Send my dad home. Don't wait until 4 in the afternoon when we've been there most of the day," Tate said.
The officers took statements from several hospital employees.
Occasionally, Bartolotta was "verbally abusive," another nurse on the floor said. "He would vacillate from being rude to her, then overly sweet to her."
Robert Bartolotta later told police that he never hit or threatened his wife. Loretta Bartolotta said her husband "never laid a hand on me."
"I know he's under a lot of stress, but it doesn't change his method of professionalism or how he treats people," she said. "Whether it be Bob or anybody else, if anyone laid a finger on me, I'm long gone."
After the allegation, the hospital asked Bartolotta to keep his wife's door open, he said. Staff also had temporary orders not to allow him in the room unsupervised, according to police reports.
The daughter's opinion
The Jupiter Police Department passed the investigation on to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office the next day, citing a conflict of interest because Bartolotta was a city official.
The Department of Children & Families automatically opened an investigation.
"I know it was a big issue because he was the town manager and it was a Jupiter hospital," recalled June Slote, the DCF caseworker who handled the allegation.
Bartolotta's position as town manager concerned Dent.
"It really kind of freaked me out because he was city manager and I thought, 'Oh, what am I getting into,'" Dent told investigators.
Loretta Bartolotta, known to friends as Lori, told a detective that she and her husband had moved all across the country as he advanced in his career.
"And to have a person's name thrown around like it's nothing is cruel," she said.
Tate told investigators she had never seen her father hit, grab or yell at her mother.
She also told police that the only time her father shut her mother's hospital room door was when she needed to use the restroom or if she requested it because of noise in the hallway.
"This is very upsetting to me because I know how much he cares about her," Tate told an investigator.
"He's up at 6 to be here at 7:30 so he can catch the doctors that come in in the morning because he wants to know how she's doing, how was this test, how was that test. His whole life is my mom. And I think that if he didn't care so much about her, she'd have given up."
Very ill, very fast
Loretta Bartolotta's first illness "started from a mosquito bite," she told a detective in a taped interview. In 1999 she contracted viral encephalitis, a disease that can affect the brain. She spent six months in recovery and suffered some short-term memory loss.
She moved with her husband to Jupiter from Savannah, Ga., when he got the job as town manager in 2000. He worked a lot, the couple's Jupiter neighbors recalled.
"He was a very dedicated person with his job," said John Mauro, who lived across the street from the Bartolottas. "He was busy."
Loretta Bartolotta stayed at home. She would garden in their landscaped yard and swap "girl talk" with Barbara Balint across the street. The two volunteered at a local animal shelter. They were not close friends, though. The Bartolottas were not much for socializing, Balint said.
Loretta Bartolotta went into the hospital for a lung biopsy in November 2002. A simple procedure. She would be out in a few days, Robert Bartolotta said doctors told him. But there were complications. She had two strokes and a heart attack.
Neighbors remember Loretta Bartolotta getting very sick, very fast.
"She was very frail," Balint said.
Loretta Bartolotta spent months in the hospital where she once had volunteered. She had a feeding tube and chronic respiratory problems. Her speech and memory were impaired.
Robert Bartolotta said he visited his wife at Jupiter Medical Center -- six minutes from their home -- every day.
It was during Loretta Bartolotta's long stay in the intensive care unit, before that Sunday morning in March, that Dent, the hospital secretary, came to know Robert Bartolotta as a devoted, caring husband, she told police.
"It really shocked me," Dent said, when describing to law enforcement her observations from that morning, "because when he was up here as a visitor, he seemed like he was so dedicated."
There are no police incident reports on file from the Bartolottas' Jupiter address during the four years they lived there, according to Sgt. Scott Pascarella, the Jupiter Police Department's public information officer.
Balint said she was shocked when she heard about the allegations, published in local newspaper articles.
It seemed so unlike anything Robert Bartolotta would do, she thought. And Loretta Bartolotta had never mentioned anything to her about abuse.
The Department of Children & Families decided in April 2003 that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Bartolotta.
"If I had felt that there was anything to substantiate those allegations, I would have pursued them as thoroughly as possible," said Slote, who is no longer with DCF.
Having a victim who does not corroborate what a witness reports makes it more difficult for a criminal prosecution, she added.
At the end of its investigation, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office found "probable cause for a domestic battery arrest for Robert Bartolotta."
Detective Kelly Standeven was skeptical of Bartolotta's explanation of what happened.
"According to the defendant's written statement, he has never struck his wife ever and only was assisting her when she was choking," Standeven wrote. "However, he never summoned any of the nurses for assistance."
Loretta Bartolotta said in her taped statement that she did not remember whether she drank coffee that morning. Her neurologist told Standeven that his patient was not competent enough to give a statement.
Even though Standeven found probable cause, Robert Bartolotta was not arrested. Instead, the Sheriff's Office forwarded the investigation to the State Attorney's Office -- a common practice when authorities have to make a judgment call as to whether they have enough evidence to press charges.
In June 2003, assistant state attorney Lanna Belohlavek found "insufficient facts to prove this allegation" and did not file charges.
That same month, Loretta Bartolotta came home from the hospital, Robert Bartolotta said.
She needed full-time aid. A nurse was with her during the day while Robert Bartolotta was at work; then he would take over her care in the evening.
"It was just too much to balance both," Robert Bartolotta said.
He resigned as Jupiter town manager in the spring of 2004 to care for his wife. The couple moved back to Savannah, Ga., where Loretta Bartolotta died in March 2006.