Bennett dismisses the opinion, says the Local Finance Board should decide
By Art Gallagher
At his breakfast meet and greet gatherings in Freehold and Neptune, Sheriff Shaun Golden said the he had consulted “large law firms, much bigger than any firm here in Monmouth County,” about the “fabricated conflict” of a Sheriff serving as a County Party Chairman raised by Chairman John Bennett and Municipal Chairs Steve McEnery of Manalapan and Anthony Graziano of Freehold Township.
Golden said, “there is no conflict.” He said in Freehold he would show the letter to anyone who wanted to see it. In Neptune he said he would “publish it if need be.”
I told Shaun I wanted to see the letter and that I wanted to publish it. Here it is.
Scrivo is the author of New Jersey Government Deskbook, the plain language handbook published by New Jersey Law Journal that is updated annually in cooperation with the New Jersey League of Municipalities. The book is a guide for Freeholders, Mayors, Council Members, Municipal Attorneys, etc, on numerous Local Government issues including Ethics. Additionally, he has been published in New Jersey Law Journal on matters of ethics and conflicts of interests.
Among the cases Scrivo cites to support his conclusion that there is no legal prohibition to a County Sheriff serving as County Party Chairman and that it is unlikely that a court would find there is a conflict between the two roles is Lanzo v DeMarino, the case Golden used in his rebuke of McEnery and Graziano last month when they first raised the issue.
Bennett said last month that Golden’s initial response to the conflict issue was “shoddy legal work.” He said, “I don’t know who his attorneys are but I hope the are not getting paid much by anybody.”
Responding specifically to the issues raised by McEnery and Graziano, Scrivo reviewed the law and cases and concluded,”…there is no indication that the dual role of County Sheriff and County Party (Republican) Chair will tempt the County Sheriff from departing from his sworn duty…”
Golden said, “I have kept my campaign positive and focused on the future of Monmouth County and our Party. Mr. Scrivo’s legal opinion should put to rest any lingering doubts about my ethics or the legality of my being Chairman that any County Committee members might have.
“We all face challenges in these positions, be it Borough Administrator Bennett, Sheriff Golden, or the many other elected and appointed officials who serve as Chairman and Chairwoman on several levels. The important thing is that we serve with integrity and honor.
“All County Committee members should feel free to vote on Tuesday free of those concerns and based only upon who they think offers a better future for Monmouth County and the Republican Party.”
Bennett said this morning, “I wonder how much Shaun paid for that opinion. Does it have a ‘Paid for By” disclosure on the bottom if it?”
“I have never said there is a legal prohibition from Shaun serving in both roles, ” Bennett continued, “However there are ethical considerations. If the Freeholders give Shaun a raise or increase his budget, are they doing it because he deserves it or because he’s the Chairman? It’s the perception of a conflict that there has been no opinion issued about. It should be decided by the Local Finance Board.”
“This is a matter of unsettled law. There have been no legally binding opinions. Until there are, Mr. Scrivo’s opinion is worth the paper it is printed on. It would be a good brief for Shaun in a case before the Local Finance Board. This matter should be settled by the Local Finance Board before we make an elected official, a Sheriff, a County Chairman.”
Local Finance Board Director Thomas Neff was elected to the Monmouth Republican County Committee from Lake Como, as a write-in last week. He is expected to attend the convention tomorrow, but has declined to issue a comment on this matter.
Bennett said he has never questioned Golden’s personal ethics. “It is a matter of public perception and our Party and the Freeholders don’t need this. Numerous lawyers, including former Chairman Fred Niemann and former Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye have said there could be an issue.”
Told that Scrivo’s letter does address the ethical questions and finds no conflicts, Bennett said, “I guess you can pay lawyers to say anything.”
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