Dem Freeholder Candidate Sticks Belmar Taxpayers With The Legal Fees To Fund His Ambition
Like his friend Governor Chris Christie, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty stuck taxpayers with the legal bills to fund his political ambition.
Doherty’s unlawful conduct in attempting to hide the identities of donors to his campaign for Monmouth County freeholder has cost the taxpayers of Belmar $122,910 for the legal fees of the citizens who successfully challenged Belmar’s violations of the Faulkner Act and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act in Court. When the borough’s legal fees to defend “Matt Law” are added, Doherty’s folly has cost Belmar taxpayers over $200,000.
Ken Pringle, Belmar’s former mayor and the attorney who represented the citizens who objected to “Matt’s Law” told MMM that Judge Katie Gummer awarded the legal fees to the plaintiffs on Thursday.
Doherty announced his candidacy for Freeholder on January 15. On January 19, an ordinance was introduced amending Belmar’s ethics/pay to pay law to allow elected officials and candidates for borough office not to disclose campaign donations under the amount of $300 dollars, and to allow Belmar officials to accept donations from Belmar vendors, professionals, developers and liquor license holders without recusing themselves from official action involving those donors. That hastily put together law was withdrawn and a corrected version was introduced on February 2.
Doherty said that the new loosened ethics law had nothing to do with his candidacy for freeholder. Rather, he said, the intention was to make it easier to Belmar Republicans to raise money. Doherty is a Democrat.
The Belmar Council approved the loosened ethics ordinance on February 16. On February 28 a committee comprised of Independent and Democrat voters announced their intention to challenge the ordinance under the Faulkner Act by circulating a petition seeking to law’s repeal or a referendum. The petition was filed, with more signatures than necessary to force the Council to either repeal the ordinance or hold a referendum and the Borough Clerk certified that the petition was valid. However, without legal justification the Council “rejected” the petition and the committee of petitioners filed suit.
Judge Gummer ruled that the original strict ordinance is “the law of the land” and that the loosened ordinance was never law. After months of legal maneuvering, appeals and outright defiance of Gummer on Doherty’s part, a referendum was finally held in Belmar on September 23. By a 3-1 margin Belmar voters affirmed the strict ethics law and rejected “Matt’s Law.” Now they are stuck with all of the legal bills and the cost of the referendum.
In the meantime, Doherty skipped eight council meetings and cancelled six others while he traveled through Monmouth County asking voters to trust him with the $469 million county budget.