Just as he did last October when he falsely accused a Republican candidate for Red Bank Council of being a fugitive, Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal is lying today in his attempt to make political hay over the arrest of former Manalapan Mayor Andew Lucas.
Lucas was indicted for alleged actions in connection with his purchase of Burke Farm.
The ever deceptive young chairman issued a statement to PoltickerNJ and other outlets that alleges a scandal regarding the sale of the development rights to the farm to the state/county and municipally funded Open Space program. Gopal say blatantly accuses the Republican members of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders of being involved in the scandal. The U.S. Attorney thoroughly investigated the sale of the farm, with the cooperation of Monmouth County officials. No charges have been filed regarding the sale of the development rights. No one other than Lucas has been charged with any wrong doing.
“The scandal involves the use of taxpayer-funded programs for a land deal that funneled $1.2 million dollars directly into the pockets of Lucas – with the help of the local and County Republican politicians,” Gopal said in a prepared statement. “In order to receive the money, the deal was approved by the Republican-controlled Monmouth County Freeholder Board.”
What the truth challenged Gopal fails to mention is that both the “Republican controlled” Monmouth County Board of Freeholders and the Manalapan Township Committee were divided in their votes to purchase the development rights to Lucas’s Burke Farm. This was not a “Republican” deal.
More importantly, the Open Space Program’s purchase of the development rights to the farm is not an issue on any of the 11 counts for which Lucas has been indicted. All the charges stem from Lucas’s purchase of the farm.
Multiple sources told MMM that the FBI visited the Monmouth County Hall of Records last year to investigate the Open Space transaction. In today’s announcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged only Lucas and only for alleged actions he took in his own purchase of the farm. There were no charges against Lucas or anyone else for any action pertaining to the Open Space transaction wherein Manalapan, Monmouth County and the State of New Jersey funded the acquisition of Lucas’s development rights on the farm.
MMM asked U.S. Attorney spokesman Matthew Reilly if there were any charges pending regarding the $1.2 million sale of the development rights to the Farm Preservation Program. Reilly said, “All I can tell you is no one other than Mr. Lucas has been charged, and our investigation is continuing.”
In response to Gopal’s statement, Monmouth County Republican Chairman John Bennett said, “It is unfortunate that Chairman Gopal would attempt to rewrite a federal indictment to suit a political end.
“The U. S. Attorney’s statement is clear that the charges assessed against Mr. Lucas are not against any body with respect to the preservation of his farm, but rather with his own actions to acquire the farm.
“Gopal is attempting to twist reality for selfish political reasons. This is disappointing as every public official has an obligation to tell the truth.”
Doubling down on his deceit, Gopal referred MMM to a statement he made in the Asbury Park Press in response to our request for comment:
“Today we see yet another example of corruption from the Monmouth County Republican Party,” Gopal said in a prepared statement. “The scandal involves the use of taxpayer funded programs for a land deal that funneled $1.2 million dollars directly into the pockets of Lucas, with the help of the local and county Republican politicians.
“We demand answers from the Freeholder Board and especially career politician (Freeholder) Lillian Burry, who endorsed and voted to approve the deal,” Gopal said. “Burry raised thousands of dollars at a fundraiser sponsored by Lucas on the very property that was up for consideration by the Freeholder Board. We need change on the freeholder board in order to stop the pattern of corruption and taxpayer abuse.”
Last month Judge Lawrence M. Lawson ruled in dismissing with prejudice a suit brought by Larry Luttrell, one of Gopal’s freeholder candidates last year, that the fundraiser in question had no bearing on the preservation of Lucas’s farm, as the Board of Freeholders had authorized the purchase five months prior to the fundraising event on the farm. Lawson summarily dismissed Luttrell’s lawsuit that alleged that Freeholder Lillian Burry had a conflict of interest when she voted to preserve the farm.
Gopal said that he also agreed with Freeholder John Curley’s comment to the Asbury Park Press:
“I believe (the farmland preservation money) should be returned in full to the state of New Jersey, the township of Manalapan and the county of Monmouth,” Curley said in a telephone interview upon learning of Lucas’ arrest.
Curley is a Republican. Freeholder Tom Arnone, also a Republican, joined Curley in voting against the final funding of the Burke Farm preservation.