By Steve McEnery, Manalapan
We have been hearing about the Lucas Farm deal for about 4 years now, especially around election time. I wonder why that is? With this letter, I will try and explain what has transpired.
First, let me explain why I believe I know how this unfolded. I was friendly with Mr. Lucas, when the Farm became available. He thought about buying it; placing the property into the States Farmland Preservation Program. One of the first actions he took was to question the State’s Ethics Board to see if it was ok. They wrote back (he read me their response) that there was nothing illegal or unethical about what he was doing, However, it might be better, politically, if he waited until he was out of office. He chose not to.
He acted then, because the property was zoned for residential use, and homes could be built on the property, adding to the congestion on Route 522A, not far from his home and farm.
This property was also viewed by the County as a prize because of its size and location since 2008. (“Target Farm List update” Sept 17, 2008).
Another Myth was that Andrew voted for this property. The Township vote took place on May 11th, 2011. The vote was Green, Maskowitz, Holland yes, Roth no and Lucas recused himself (from the Manalapan Township meeting notes). Jack McNaboe and Susan Cohen did not vote on the Farmland acquisition, they were not elected at this time.
In a letter dated Sept. 13, 2012 from NJ State Department of Community affairs; RE; Local Government Ethics Law Complaint #12-007 was the complaint that was made against Mr. Lucas and his involvement in meetings that discussed other properties in Manalapan and advanced his own property position. The Board found that Mr. Lucas “had the right to submit an application as would any other individual. ……You appropriately recused yourself from any official role in proceedings ….concerning your application.so these allegations were found by the Board to be unsubstantiated”
Another issue of planned confusion was the result of the Judge’s ruling on the Court case involving a Fund Raiser on the Farm property. “The Court is unable to find any conflict of interest in the instant, either real or apparent. The Board of Freeholders voted to commit to the development easement in question in 2011, nearly two years prior to the disputed vote.” The vote was taken “in order to obtain the commitment from the State (for funding)”. (Monmouth County Board resolution # 2011-0367)
Then there was the vote for funding. Manalapan Township Voted: Susan Cohen and Don Holland yes, Jordan Maskowitz abstained (at the time he was not comfortable where Mr. Lucas got the funding having been a State Trooper gave him the instincts to question Mr. Lucas’s funding for the purchase), Mr. Green voted no (he never passes on an opportunity to be a contrarian if it can hurt someone). In realty those that voted yes were on the right side of the issue. They had been counseled that since the Land had been accepted into the Farm Land Program, Cohen and Holland just approved the use of Funds (that were set aside for preserving Land in Manalapan); to refuse to do so would have been irresponsible, since the county and state had approved the inclusion based in part on the promise by Manalapan to pay its share. Not only could Andrew have sued the Township for an arbitrary refusal to approve the funding, but both the County and the State may well have a legitimate legal claim against Manalapan. (Manalapan Township meeting notes, Feb. 27th, 2013)
Finally, what did Andrew do? He was convicted on an 11 count indictment, all on issues concerning his deceptions, during his funding of the purchase of the Farm Land. He was amoral in his behavior. He alone deserves punishment.
The other players in this spectacle were only following the procedures set in place for everyone to follow: the State of NJ; the Judge; the Board of Chosen Freeholders; Manalapan Township Committee.
Because of their actions, Manalapan has a beautiful piece of property to enjoy, forever, rather than a lawsuit that could have cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Election season is almost over, and, hopefully any future discussion on the Lucas Farm deal.
Steve McEnery is Chairman of the Manalapan Republican Committee