By Art Gallagher
The FBI and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office have conducted at least five interviews into the conduct of Freeholder John P. Curley and former Monmouth County Counsel Timothy B. Middleton, Esq., according to former Assemblyman Michael Panter, in his capacity as in-house legal counsel of Realty Data Systems, LLC (RDS), a company that performs property inspections for many municipalities participating in the New Jersey Assessment Demonstration Program (ADP).
Panter disclosed the law enforcement investigation into Curley and Middleton in a detailed nine page letter to Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone, Monmouth County Counsel Michael Fitzgerald, and County Administrator Teri O’Connell, with copies to the Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI, wherein the former legislator alleges that Middleton was the author of the anonymous letter which alleged corruption in the ADP, that Curley referred, with great fanfare and press coverage, to the Prosecutor in September of 2015, during the height of his last reelection campaign.
Panter, on behalf of RDS, alleges that Curley knew that Middleton was the author of the ‘anonymous’ letter and that they conspired to cause a law enforcement investigation into the ADP, RDS and its professionals, and Tax Board employees, and others, for the benefit of Middleton’s tax appeal business.
Middleton earned over $1 million in property tax appeals in Monmouth County from 2011-2015, according to the letter; business that would surely decline if ADP was successfully implemented throughout the County and beyond.
The subsequent 18 month investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office concluded with the Prosecutor declaring that no charges were warranted. Panter estimates that the investigation cost Monmouth County taxpayers $1 million and states that it included more than 100 subpoenas and witness interviews by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI. He told MMM that the law enforcement interviews into Curley and Middleton’s conduct occurred in 2017 after the Prosecutor’s Office announced that the investigation prompted by Curley’s release of the ‘anonymous’ letter alleging ADP related wrongdoing came up empty.
RDS alleges that Curley knowingly provided false information to the Prosecutor’s Office with respect to the content of the ‘anonymous’ letter, the source of the letter, the financial interest of the source of the letter and his personal relationship with the source of the letter.
RDS also alleges that Middleton was a contributor to Curley’s campaign and notes that the attorney was appointed a County Counsel, despite not having the experience required, following Curley’s 2015 reelection.
Both Curley and Middleton could be subject to prosecution for: Impersonation; Retaliation for Past Official Acts; Crime of Corruption of Public Resources; Unsworn Falsification to Authorities; False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities; Official Misconduct; and Pattern of Official Misconduct. Panter said that Curley, Middleton and Monmouth County could also be civilly liable for the damage done to RDS’s business as a result of Curley using his official position and resources to initiate the criminal investigation based on the alleged falsehoods in the ‘anonymous’ letter.
Panter requested that Monmouth County hire an Independent Investigator in conduct an inquiry, to include public hearings, into his allegations against Curley and Middleton, that the County release documents previously withheld after OPRA requests, and that they cooperate with the criminal investigation by the Prosecutor and FBI. He called upon the Prosecutor’s Office to release their findings and/or status of their investigation to the public and to cooperate with the County’s investigation.
In a statement to MMM, Panter said, “John Curley harmed innocent county employees and local businesses by providing false information to law enforcement. That is fact, and inexcusable for an elected official.
“IF it’s found he used taxpayer funds in an effort to enrich his friends, that may be grounds for indictment.
“We intend to cooperate with these investigations so taxpayers learn the truth, and to reserve all legal remedies to which we’re entitled.”
Angelo Genova, Curley’s attorney in his lawsuit against Monmouth County taxpayers and the Freeholders over his censure and the investigation into sexual harassment complaints by County employees, said he did not appreciate being contacted over a holiday weekend and hung up when MMM reached him on the phone on Saturday. Genova did not respond to a follow up email asking if he is representing Curley regarding the RDS letter, and if so, if he had any comment.
Curley has not yet responded to a voice mail offering him an opportunity to comment on the RDS allegations.
MMM’s efforts to reach Middleton over the weekend were unsuccessful. A message left at his office this morning has not yet been returned.
Freeholder Director Arnone said, “I am alarmed by the allegations against Freeholder Curley and Mr. Middleton and believe they should be investigated. However, that decision will be made by the entire Board of Freeholders.”
Charles Webster, spokesman for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, requested a copy of this article and the RDS letter before offering a comment.panter rds letter resized 032718