Pringle: “What is Doherty hiding?”
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty told The Asbury Park Press that he would disclose all donations to his campaign for Monmouth County Freeholder under the amount of $300, but only those donations received after July 13. July 13 was the date that the Doherty administration filed the 12 year old pay to play ethics ordinance with the state.
“I’m going to follow the ordinance and the state statutes to the letter.” Doherty told app. It’s disappointing that the reporter let him get away with that Clinton speak.
Doherty is releasing the names of his donors because the Belmar pay to play/ethics ordinance requires that all donations be disclosed and that Belmar officials recuse themselves from official action pertaining to borough business and applications involving political donors to their campaigns.
Related Stories: Matt’s Law: Belmar’s Pay to Play Saga
Doherty, a Democrat, tried to change the ordinance after he declared his candidacy for freeholder, claiming that he wanted to make it easier for Belmar Republicans to raise money to use against him and his colleagues. A group of Belmar citizens, mostly Democrats, filed a valid petition under the Faulkner Act opposing Doherty’s loosened ethics rules. Under Faulkner, the petition triggers a referendum unless the Council withdraws the ordinance. Doherty and the Council “rejected” the petition without explanation or legal justification. The petitioners took Doherty and the Council to Court.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Katie Gummer ruled that the existing ordinance “is the law of the land.” She ordered and scheduled a referendum on the new ordinance, “Matt’s Law.” The referendum was held last week. Belmar voters overwhelmingly, 3-1, voted to reject “Matt’s Law” and affirmed the high standards of the existing pay to play/ethics ordinance.
Judge Gummer further ordered that Belmar Clerk April Claudio file the existing referendum with state authorities…something they failed to do for the entire time Doherty has served as mayor and as a councilman. The ordinance was finally filed on July 13.
In his Clinton speak to The Asbury Park Press, Doherty is giving the impression he is complying with the law, “I’m going to follow the ordinance and the state statutes to the letter,” by disclosing donations received after July 13. He’s arguing that the pay to play ordinance first passed in 2004 and amended in 2005, 2007 and 2011, did not become the “law of the land” until July 13, 2016.
The problem is that Doherty lost that argument in Court. In her ruling, Judge Gummer said,
Contrary to defendants’ argument that the existing ordinances were not filed, does not render them void. To hold that they are void because they were not filed with the Secretary of State, the Court would have to ignore the language of subparagraph (b) and would have to read into language in subsection (c) that renders ordinances that have a high presumption of validity invalid even though subparagraph (c) does not expressly provide for the consequence, for that consequence.
The Court must be guided by the Legislature in this interpretation. When the Legislature intends that a failure to comply with a filing requirement renders the underlying action invalid, the Legislature includes that language. For example, in NJSA 40:55D- the Legislature provided “development regulations, except for the official map, shall not take effect until a copy thereof shall be filed with the County Planning Board”. (emphasis added)
Doherty is defying Judge Gummer’s ruling with impunity. That is one of the reasons we call him “Lawless Matt.” He is deceiving the public, and apparently The Asbury Park Press, by giving the impression that he is acting legally. “I’m going to follow the ordinance and the state statutes to the letter.” That’s one of the reasons we call him “Dirty Doherty.”
Former Belmar Mayor Ken Pringle, also a Democrat, is the attorney that sued Doherty to comply with the Faulkner Act. Both Doherty and Pringle supported the strict Belmar pay to play law when the served together. Regarding Doherty’s statement to the press regarding the release of campaign donations received only after July 13, Pringle said, “Clearly filing to ordinance with the Secretary of State was not a condition of the ordinance being in effect. There’s no reason for Matt not to reveal the contributions unless he is hiding something. What is he hiding?”