Democratic Mayors Pan Their Freeholder Candidates’ Call For A County Ethics Board
By Art Gallagher
The Monmouth County Democrats have finally put forth a proposal to improve County Government.
It is not a new idea. It is not even a good idea. But at least they have put forth an idea for debate instead of spreading the lies and baseless character assassinations that have comprised their campaign so far this year.
Their campaign had been wholly negative; primarily baseless character attacks on Freeholder Director Lillian Burry. They lied and said Burry hired an unqualified campaign worker for a mental health position. Even after their lawsuit alleging that Burry had a conflict of interest over the Andrew Lucas farmland preservation deal was thrown out of court, they continue to beat that drum. The GOP controlled Freeholder Board has cleaned house at Brookdale Community College since former President Peter Burnham was caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Yet the Democrats have been blaming Burry for Burnham’s transgressions.
Democratic candidate Joe Grillo told The Asbury Park Press that he wants to reinstate a County Ethics Board. I know I’m being generous by saying this is a proposal to improve County Government instead of calling it an excuse to keep talking about the baseless allegations they are making about Burry. But what the heck. MMM is fair and biased. Let’s play along and debunk the idea on its merits.Art Gallagher | Filed under: Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth Democrats, Monmouth GOP, New Jersey | Tags: Amy Handlin, Anna Little, Asbury Park, Asbury Park Press, Belmar, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, DCA, Department of Community Affairs, Gary Rich, Joe Grillo, John Curley, Larry Luttrell, Lillian Burry, Local Finance Board, Long Branch, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider, Marlboro, Marlboro Ethics Board, Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik, Monmouth Democrats, Monmouth Dems, Neptune Nudniks, New Jersey, Red Bank, Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna | 1 Comment »
The Local Finance Board, the entity within the Department of Community Affairs which oversees the ethics of local officials, has ruled that two Jackson Township councilmen did not violate State Ethics or Campaign Finance Laws when they voted to appoint their former campaign manger a job on the Jackson Municipal Utilities Authority, according to a report on Shore News Network.
Cara Glory was the 2012 campaign manager for Councilmen Barry Calogero and Robert Nixon. On January 6, 2014 Calogero, Nixon join the rest of the Jackson governing body in unanimously voting to approve Glory’s appointment to the MUA. Unidentified Jackson residents filed ethics charges with the Local Fiance Board.
The charges were deemed frivolous by Board Chairmen Thomas Neff, according to the Shore News Network report.
“Following preliminary investigation and evaluation of the facts and circumstances relevant to the complaints and upon consideration of the foregoing provisions of Local Government Ethics Law, the Local Finance Board voted to dismiss the complaints as having no reasonable factual basis.”
The state reiterated their stance, adding, “The relationship between an elected officeholder and a campaign deputy treasurer or campaign manager is simply not one, in and of itself, which poses a conflict.”
The charges against the councilmen were dismissed and Glory’s appointment remained as-is.
The issue is of significance in Monmouth County as Democratic freeholder candidates Larry Luttrell and Joe Grillo attempt to portray themselves and paragons of virtue in the campaign against Freeholder Director Lillian Burry and Deputy Director Gary Rich.Art Gallagher | Filed under: Department of Community Affairs, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth Democrats | Tags: Bill Bucco, Cara Glory, Department of Community Affairs, Gary Rich, Jackson, Jackson Municipal Utilities Authority, Joe Grillo, Larry Luttrell, Lawrence Luttrell, Lillian Burry, Local Finance Board, R.A.G.E., Thomas Neff | Comments Off on Jackson Councilmen Cleared Of Ethics Charges Over Appointment
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.Art Gallagher | Filed under: John Bennett, Monmouth County Republican Committee, Monmouth GOP, Shaun Golden | Tags: John Bennett, Local Finance Board, Monmouth GOP, Monmouth GOP Chairman's race, Shaun Golden, Thomas Neff, Thomas Scrivo | Comments Off on Leading NJ Legal Scholar: Golden has no conflict serving as Chairman and Sheriff
Lawrence Luttrell, a Holmdel attorney, has filed suit against Monmouth County on behalf of a new non-profit corporation, Residents Against Government Exploitation (RAGE), over the government purchase of the development rights to Manalapan Township Committee Member Andrew Lucas’ farm for $1.152 million.
The plaintiff non-profit could be called LAGE, Luttrells Against Government Exploitation. The trustees of the entity are Luttrell, his wife and his mother.
Luttrell is a Democratic candidate for Monmouth County Freeholder.
The all Republican Monmouth County Board of Freeholders passed a resolution by a 3-2 vote on February 28 to join the Township of Manalapan and the State of New Jersey in purchasing the development rights to the Lucas property for farmland preservation. The county contributed $277,920, Manalapan paid $186,969 and the State picked up $687,111 of the purchase. Freeholders Lillian Burry, Gary Rich and Serena DiMaso voted in favor of funding the purchase. John Curley and Freeholder Director Tom Arnone voted no.Art Gallagher | Filed under: 2013 Election, Lillian Burry, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth Democrats | Tags: Andrew Lucas, Andrew Lucas farm, Diamond Developers, Gary Rich, John Curley, Larry Luttrell, Lawrence Luttrell, Lillian Bury, Local Finance Board, Lucas Farm, Serena DiMaso, Tom Arnone | 10 Comments »
Belmar Councilman Jim Bean Lodges Ethics Complaint Against Mayor Matt Doherty Over AshBritt Contracts
Bean cites Local Finance Board’s Decision Against Marlboro Councilwoman Randi Marder To Support His Complaint
Doherty Dismisses Complaint As Politics
Belmar Councilman Jim Bean, a Republican, has written to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board requesting an investigation into a “potential violation” of New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law by Mayor Matt Doherty, a Democrat.
Doherty’s wife, Maggie Moran, a former Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Jon Corzine, worked as a consultant for AshBritt, the Florida company that performed debris removal throughout much of New Jersey after the Superstorm Sandy. Belmar paid $2.67 million to AshBrit and its affiliates, according to Bean’s complaint which can be found here.
Doherty said that Bean is “Belmar’s Bayshore Tea Party….a cancer on the Republican Party.”
“This is the second, politically motivated, baseless complaint Bean has filed against me in the past 8 months, ” Doherty said, “If he didn’t waste his time on this nonsense maybe he could actually do something useful for the people of Belmar.”Art Gallagher | Filed under: Belmar, Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: AshBritt, Belmar, Ethics Complaint, Jim Bean, Lawless Matt Doherty, Local Finance Board, Maggie Moran, Marlboro Township, Matt Doherty, Randi Marder, Stavola | 5 Comments »
Andrew Lucas will finally get his $1,152,000.
After almost three years since the Manalapan Township Committee Member purchased a 97 acre farm in Iron Ore Road, the Manalapan Township Committe and the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders approved the funding of their respective portion of the purchase of the development rights to the property. Manalapan is paying $186,969.10 of the purchase price. Monmouth County is paying $277,920. The balance is coming from State coffers for the purpose of Open Space preservation.
Manalapan’s all Republican Committee approved their funds, 2-1, on Wednesday evening, according to ManalapanPatch. Committeeman Ryan Green voted no. Deputy Mayor Jordan Maskowitz abstained. Mayor Susan Cohen, the Monmouth GOP Vice Chair, and Committeeman Donald Holland voted to approve the purchase. Lucas recused himself from the proceedings. Maskowitz and Lucas are both up for reelection this November.
The isssue was heated at the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders meeting last night, with John Curley accusing his fellow freeholder, Lillian Burry, of colluding with Lucas. Lucas hosted a fundraiser for Burry at the farm in 2011, according to the Asbuy Park Press. The APP said the exchanges between Curley and Burry were so intense that Freeholder Director Tom Arnone called multiple recesses. Arnone voted with Curely against the purchased. Gary Rich and Serena DiMaso joined Burry in voting for the purchase.
Democratic Freeholder candidate Lawrence Luttrell asked Burry to recuse herself. County Counsel Andrea Bazer advised Burry that she had no conflict that would prevent her from voting.
Former Middletown Democratic Township Commitee candidate Linda Baum also spoke against the purchase on ethical grounds.
The issue has been controversial for years because, while he recused himself from voting as a committee member on the purchase, Lucas participated in deliberations about the transaction. The State Local Finance Board approved the ethics of Lucas’ participation due to the fact that he sought the advice of the Township’s attorney. In their opinion, the Finance Board indicated that they would be issuing new rules to cover future similar circumstances.Posted: March 1st, 2013 | Author: Art Gallagher | Filed under: Manalapan, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders | Tags: Andrew Lucas, Donald Holland, ethics, Gary Rich, John Curley, Lillian Burry, Linda Baum, Local Finance Board, Lucas Farn, Manalanpan, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Freeholders, Open space, Ryan Green, Serena DiMaso, Susan Cohen, Tom Arnone | 22 Comments »
Local Finance Board Faults Marlboro Ethics Board’s Investigation Into Councilwoman Marder’s Conflict
The New Jersey Local Finance Board (LFB), a part of the Department of Community Affairs found fault in the Marlboro Ethic Board’s (MTEB) investigation into conflict of interest charges file against Councilwoman Randi Marder. LBF remanded the matter back to MTEB for “additional investigation and application of the appropriate legal standard.”Art Gallagher | Filed under: Marlboro | Tags: Coucilwoman Randi Marder, DCA, Department of Community Affairs, Frank LaRocca, Jon Hornik, Local Finance Board, Marlboro, Marlboro Ethics Board, Marlboro Township, Thomas H Neff | Comments Off on Local Finance Board Faults Marlboro Ethics Board’s Investigation Into Councilwoman Marder’s Conflict
Freeholder Director John Curley said yesterday that there is no support on the Freeholder Board to purchase the development rights for Manalapan Township Committeeman Andrew Lucas’ 98 acre farm on Iron Ore Road, despite the fact that the purchase, which was approved by the Board in May of 2011, has been cleared of an ethics violation complaint by the State Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board and was approved by the State Agriculture Development Committee.
“If elected officials want to apply for government money for their properties, they should resign from office,” said Curley, “we should not be using the positions the voters entrusted us with to enrich ourselves.”
“Andrew Lucas has not been forthcoming about the details of his purchase of this property. The freeholders will not approve this purchase.”
Lucas, Manalapan’s former mayor and a former GOP candidate for freeholder, purchased the farm which had been slated for development in March of 2010 for an undisclosed amount. Soon thereafter he started the process of selling the development rights, for $1.152 million, through funding through the State, County and Township. Lucas participated on Township Committee discussions of his application.
The purchase approved by the Freeholder Board in May of 2011 was held up by an ethics complaint filed by former Manalapan Mayor George Spodak. The State Agriculture Developement Committee conditioned its funding on an satisfactory ethics review of the transaction. Local Finance Board Chairman Thomas Neff wrote Lucas last month to inform him that his application had been approved because he consulted with the Manalapan Township Attorney about his application. Neff’s letter also said that the Board would use Lucas’s case to provide clear guidance to future office holders to recuse themselves from applications that they have an interest in.
Spodak is outraged that Neff and the Local Finance Board cleared the ethics of the transaction. “I don’t think they even read my 111 page complaint,” said Spodak. “I sent Neff a letter appealing his decision but have not heard back from him.”
The county monies approved in 2011 for the purchase are no longer available. An article in the Asbury Park Press said that the county is applying for federal money to fund the purchase.
Curly said the the freeholders have not approved any federal grant application and will not approve the purchase.
Earlier yesterday, Monmouth Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal issued a statement condemning the transaction as an example of Republcian cronyism, “Club Monmouth.” Gopal was critical of Neff’s ties to the Monmouth GOP as evidenced by his $750 to Monmouth GOP Chairman John Bennett’s leadership PAC while Bennett was President of the State Senate. Prior being appointed to his position with the Department of Community Affairs, Neff, an attorney, was an employee of the Republican Senate Caucus.
Informed of Curley’s opposition to the Lucas farm purchase and his representation that the other freeholders, all Republicans, also oppose it, Gopal said, “What has changed since they approved it last year? Only Amy Mallet (then a Democratic freeholder) voted against it in 2011.”Posted: October 15th, 2012 | Author: Art Gallagher | Filed under: John Curley, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth Democrats, Monmouth GOP, Vin Gopal | Tags: Andrew Lucas, Department of Community Affairs, John Bennett, John O. Bennett III, Local Finance Board, Manalapan, Monmouth County, State Agriculature Development Committee, Thomas Neff | 6 Comments »
Marlboro GOP Chairman Christopher Dean filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Jon Hornik, Councilman Frank LaRocca and Councilwoman Randi Marder last October. To date, no action has been taken by the Marlboro Ethics Board.
The complaint involves the Township doing business with a company owned by Marder and her husband on a “no-bid” basis.
Dean was a candidate for Township Council, running against LaRocca and Marder, when the complaint was filed. He and one of his running mates, Craig Marshall who ran for Mayor against Hornik, are continuing their fight for ethical government in Marlboro, despite their loss at the polls.
Members of municipal ethics boards are appointed and approved by the Mayors and Councils of their respective communities. Of the 566 municipalities in New Jersey, only 37 have their own Ethics Boards. Of New Jersey’s 21 counties, 7 have Ethics Boards.
In a January 26 letter to the Marlboro Ethics Board, Dean asked that his complaint be referred to the State Local Fiance Board rather been heard by the local board which is comprised of personal friends of the Mayor and Council members who are subject of the inquiry.
Marshall questions the objectivity of the board’s new attorney. In a Letter to the Editor published in the Marlboro Patch, the former mayoral candidate notes that the attorney, Ken Biedzynski, earned $221,146 last year as a Marlboro special council for affordable housing, an appointment he received with the approval of the subjects of the pending ethics complaint.
All government officials should recuse themselves when faced with a conflict or the very appearance of a conflict. This is especially so for an Ethics Board and its attorney. In this case, there is enough of an appearance of conflicts or potential conflicts to warrant recusals.
Even if the Marlboro Ethics Board were to hear the case, which they could have done in the last four months, and found that there was no ethical violation, Dean and Marshall are going to appeal to the Local Fiance Board anyway.
The fact that this issue is still dragging on after four months with multiple attorneys raises questions about the impartiality of the board.
The Marlboro Ethics Board would be wise to refer the matter to the Local Finance Board when they meet on March 14. Hornick, LaRocca and Marder would be wise to publicly call for such a referral.
Let both sides make their cases to the Local Finance Board and put the matter in the rear view mirror. That’s going to happen eventually anyway. The delaying tactics only raise more questions.Posted: February 23rd, 2012 | Author: Art Gallagher | Filed under: Marlboro | Tags: Christopher Dean, Craig Marshall, Frank LaRocca, Jon Hornik, Local Finance Board, Marlboro, Marlboro Ethics Board, Randi Marder | Comments Off on Marlboro Republicans Want Ethics Complaint To Be Referred To Local Finance Board