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Peabody set to honor Mavroules

Scandal tainted years of service

He was one of the region's most prominent political figures, a Peabody city councilor and mayor who became a seven-term Democratic congressman. But the career of Nicholas Mavroules in public service came to an abrupt end in 1992 when he was voted out of office in a corruption scandal that later landed him in federal prison.

Now, in a gesture that reflects the warmth many in Peabody still feel for him despite the troubled close of his career, Mavroules, who died in 2003 at 74, is about to be honored by his hometown.

Mavroules, who had become a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, pleaded guilty in 1993 to 15 of 17 charges brought by federal prosecutors. He acknowledged, among other offenses, having failed to report as income the free lease of cars from a North Shore auto dealer and of a beach house from a developer, according to Globe reports. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $15,000.

On Sunday, Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti is to unveil a photographic portrait of Mavroules that is being donated to the city by the late congressman's family. The picture will hang in the first-floor corridor outside the room that served as Mavroules's office during his years as mayor, 1969 to 1979.

The unveiling ceremony at City Hall is scheduled to occur during the intermission of a concert that St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church, where Mavroules was a lifelong member, is presenting as part of a yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary.

City Council president Michael F. Zellen said he believes it is appropriate for Mavroules's portrait to be hung in City Hall.

''I truly believe that Nick Mavroules was a very good man, in spite of the problems at the end of his career," he said. ''When he was mayor, he did a tremendous job for the city of Peabody."

Portrait photos of the city's past mayors, including Mavroules, hang on the left side of the entrance to the second-floor Wiggin Auditorium. Mavroules can also be seen in some of the group photos of past city councilors and mayors that line the walls in that part of the auditorium.

But Mavroules will join his late rival, former mayor Peter Torigian, and the city's first mayor, S. Howard Donnell, as the only mayors to have individual portraits elsewhere in City Hall. A painting of Donnell hangs on the right side of the stage in the Wiggin. A photograph of Torigian hangs in the second-floor foyer leading to the auditorium.

Bonfanti said the decision to have a separate Mavroules portrait grew out of his effort to adorn the walls of City Hall with pictures that tell the city's story.

''What we are trying to do is to make the City Hall reflective of the history of the community," he said, ''so people who come here see more than just blank walls."

Bonfanti said it was in connection with that initiative that he had conversations with members of the Greek community and the Mavroules family about having his predecessor's portrait placed on the walls.

''In my view, this is part of the history of the city of Peabody. . . . All we're doing is putting a former mayor up on the wall," Bonfanti said, adding, ''He was mayor for 11 years and as mayor he did an awful lot of good things. He built a lot of schools."

Mary Mavroules, the congressman's widow, said the portrait, which was taken by photographer Michael Skerry of Salem, was used during Mavroules's wake at St. Vasilios Church.

She said the family is ''very proud" that it will be in City Hall, and plans to be on hand for the unveiling.

''Nick was very good to a lot of people," she said, adding that the warmth they felt for him was demonstrated when more than 6,000 mourners attended his wake.

The Rev. Andrew Demotses, pastor of St. Vasilios, agreed that the turnout at the wake ''speaks very eloquently about the place he had in the hearts of people in Peabody."

Demotses said the portrait ''is a recognition of his accomplishments as mayor of the city of Peabody and the legacy he left behind."

His record as mayor is not always applauded. Supporters of Torigian, who lost to Mavroules in a bitter 1973 mayoral bout, often recall that Peabody was a city known for its Route 1 strip joints when Torigian succeeded Mavroules in 1979, and credit Torigian for turning that image around. They also credit Torigian for bringing financial stability to the city.

But Ward 1 City Councilor Barry Osborne said he believes Mavroules was ''an excellent mayor," and that having his portrait in City Hall is ''long overdue."

Others agree.

''I think it's about time," said Democratic City Committee chairman Michael Schulze. ''He was always for the city."

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