By Bob Weaver

The former chairman of the House of Delegates Education Committee and the former school superintendent of Hampshire County are facing federal fraud charges.

A trial is scheduled to begin today in Martinsburg.

Jerry Mezzatesta and David Friend allegedly misapplied taxpayer money and defrauded the county school board.

Prosecutors contend the pair obtained a $75,000 grant from the state Department of Education in July 2003 for the Special Services Workshop in Hampshire County.

The money was given to volunteer fire departments in an attempt to get Mezzatesta re-elected.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

They face up to 15 years in federal prison if they are convicted.

Mezzatesta was charged with numerous other violations while holding public office, most of which were discounted by the State Ethics Commission and former State Superintendent of Schools Dave Stewart.

Mezzatesta double-dipped as an employee of the Hampshire school system while being a key education player in the House, funneling money to his county.

Stewart, upon retirement, went to work for a large architectural firm to which his agency gave design contracts for the construction of new schools funded by the School Building Authority.