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Mayor: Pringle Lawsuit “Political”

Reprinted with the permission of the Coast Star:


BELMAR — Mayor Matt Doherty is calling the lawsuit filed against him and the council “politically motivated,” and has alleged that the true intention of the lawsuit is to smear his name in the weeks prior to the borough’s mayoral election.

Last week, former mayor Ken Pringle filed a lawsuit against the borough, mayor and council on behalf of a group of residents in town, seeking to eliminate the borough’s “responsible bidders ordinance” on grounds that it was unlawfully adopted, and alleging that Mayor Matt Doherty had a conflict of interest when choosing to adopt said ordinance.

The ordinance requires contractors that bid on projects in Belmar to participate in a federal apprenticeship program that meets requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, and during the Sept. 9 council meeting, Councilman Jim Bean called on the council to eliminate the ordinance.  (And here’s a big surprise…they ignored Jim Bean!)

The lawsuit asking for the ordinance to be overturned was filed on Sept. 23.

A week prior, a group of residents submitted a petition to the mayor and council requesting that same responsible bidder ordinance be amended.

In response to the petition, the mayor mailed a letter to residents to explain the ordinance and said he would offer a compromise to those petitioning in order to avoid a costly special election. (The “compromise” turned out to be having the requirements kick in when a project is over $500,000. Of course they wanted that much just to build a porch onto Taylor.  And although the opponents are considering the law’s effect on future projects like the new outflow system for Lake Como, they started their actions because of its distortion of the pavilion project bidding.  The proposed compromise wouldn’t have changed anything.)  The mayor is now dismissing the lawsuit as a political attack.

“When you look at this, it is overtly political,” the mayor said. “The ordinance was passed back in February, and the fact that this lawsuit is filed five weeks before the mayoral election is pretty obvious it’s political.”  (The timing is actually a result of the mayor refusing the petitioners’ pleas to have the bond referendum as part of the fall general election.  Instead, he called for a $17,000 special election to be held during the summer.  The bond had to be defeated first or the second petition and Pringle’s lawsuit would have been moot.  The money would have already been spent.  If the referendum was in November and the bond was defeated then, the actions taken against 2014-1 would not have come until winter.)  

The mayor also alleges that much of the lawsuit is factually inaccurate, one example being the statement that alleges his wife, Maggie Moran, and borough administrator Colleen Connolly were roommates in college, which he says is untrue.  (OK, maybe they were just in the same dorm or something.  Fact is they’ve been friends and co-workers for like 20 years.)

“That’s one example that is just easy to point to,” he said. “Throughout this politically motivated lawsuit, there is a tremendous amount of false statements.”  (Unless like 98% of it is false we got a problem.)

“It’s not a matter of opinion,” he added. “It’s pretty black and white.”

The mayor said much of the literature in the lawsuit is reminiscent of previous campaign attacks, and therefore nothing knew.  (The “literature” and “campaign attacks” he is referring to is quotes from established news sources such as the Asbury Park Press, Newark Star Ledger and the Bergen Record.)

“A lot of it is very similar to the campaign attacks in last year’s election by the Republicans against me and my wife, back in the fall of 2013,” the mayor said.

Mayor Doherty said the “overtly political” nature of the lawsuit may have also introduced legal complications to the mayoral race.

According to the mayor, Mr. Pringle’s decision to handle the lawsuit for free, seeking costs from the borough of Belmar, is at the root of those complications.

“Ken Pringle is not charging his clients, and he wants the taxpayers of the Borough of Belmar to pay his attorney fees,” he said.

That, “mixed with the fact that Joy DeSanctis is the campaign manager for Jim Bean and Michael Seebeck,” has led Doherty to take counteraction in the suit, he said.

Calling the lawsuit an “in kind contribution” to the Bean and Seebeck campaign, the mayor will be filing a complaint with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission [LEC], (Isn’t it ELEC?) saying that the lawsuit should be disclosed as a campaign contribution.  (The mayor is certainly blazing some new legal paths here.  First of all, he can’t “file a complaint”.  All he can do is ask them to investigate.  They will decide whether a complaint is justified.  I don’t believe they will find that suing someone who happens to be running for office at the time constitutes a “campaign contribution”.  I haven’t been able to find any kind of precedent for making that stretch.)

If the LEC is to rule that the lawsuit is in fact an in kind contribution, (They won’t.) the mayor said that the fees sought by Mr. Pringle from the lawsuit would then be considered campaign contributions, and he believes it will exceed the legal limit allotted for campaign donations — which is $2,600 per candidate.  (The Asbury Park Press and Newark Star Ledger didn’t charge my campaign for what they wrote about the mayor last year, so maybe those were “in-kind contributions too.)

“If Ken Pringle was charging Joy DeSanctis for his time to put this all together, well then, that’s not a campaign contribution — he’s doing work for them,” the mayor said. “But he’s doing work on their behalf, and not charging them — he’s trying to charge the fees and costs for his firm to the taxpayers of the Borough of Belmar.”  (What’s he worried about?  Belmar only pays if Doherty loses.)

The mayor said that lawsuits filed against the borough by Mr. Pringle have become a recurring trend.  (Pringle also keeps winning them, so the “recurring trend” is this administration breaking the law.)

“Every time Ken Pringle sues us, he tries to get the Borough of Belmar to pay his fees,” he said. “The court has never ruled in that manner, but he keeps asking for it — it’s a way for him to make money.”  (Oh, please.)

“It’s what attorneys do,” he said. “They throw up lawsuits, hope to be successful, and if they are successful, taxpayers end up bearing the burden of it.”  (You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my head.)

In addition to reporting the lawsuit to the LEC, the mayor said the borough attorney will be making a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that “it’s a frivolous (I was waiting for him to use the “f” word!) lawsuit that was filed months after the timeframe by which to challenge [the ordinance].”  (Some of you may remember I challenged it the night it was introduced.  But who am I?  Nobody.)

Ms. DeSanctis said the allegation that Mr. Pringle’s work would be considered an in kind contribution would be “a matter for her attorney to answer.”

Mr. Pringle was out of town this week, and thus unavailable for comment.  (I have a feeling he’s going to have something to say about this when he gets back.)

Councilman Bean is remaining removed from the lawsuit.

While Ms. DeSanctis has been referred to as the “Democratic campaign manager,” Councilman Bean said that her title is not official, and that is in uninvolved with the lawsuit.  (While DeSanctis is a registered Democrat, I think the reporter meant to say “Republican”.  BTW, Pringle is a Demcrat too.  So much for it being “political”.)

“I have nothing to do with this lawsuit,” Councilman Bean said. “I’m a defendant here. I don’t know how me being sued by Ken Pringle is helping me out at all.”  (Good line Jim.)

Subsequently, Councilman Bean noted that he was involved in the petition against the mayor’s responsible bidder ordinance, and helped garner signatures from residents in town.

However, while similar in nature, the lawsuit and petition are legally independent of each other.

If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the ordinance will be found unlawful, and the petition will be moot.

However, if the lawsuit is a bust, the petition will still remain.

Under the Faulkner Act, which allows for the petition, the council can either accept the terms of the petition and amend the ordinance as requested, or push the decision to a referendum.  (Wednesday night they were pretending that another option was to get Bean to “compromise”.  He correctly pointed out that it was too late and the time to compromise would have been before the petitions were filed.)

The borough will have just under three weeks to make a decision on their course of action, and if no action is taken, the result will be a $17,000 special election — similar to the election held in August regarding the $7 million boardwalk bond.  (Hopefully resulting in a similar victory for the taxpayers!)


  1. guest wrote:

    I agree with previous comments by the administrator of this site that there should be no party affiliation in local level elections.

    Friday, October 3, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  2. DR. ZAIUS wrote:

    Another special election. Ok $17,000.00 more wasted. So $34,000.00 in total. On my planet the $34,000.00 could have paid for many nice things for the apes. Could have helped pay for food.

    Friday, October 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  3. Eugene Creamer wrote:

    When elected officials disregard the law, taxpayers pay for their actions.
    The good mayor failed to disclose to the reporter that Judge Lawson already ruled on 2 lawsuits where Doherty, Deicke, Magovern and Nicolay were found to be arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. The first matter was the power grab attempt (Redevelopment / Blighted). The second was the “screw the beachgoers” …..
    Belmar taxpayers will pay the 7th Avenue and loser legal fees ….Belmar voters should hold the above elected officials accountable for their actions.
    BTW- real professionals don’t work for “free”

    Friday, October 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm | Permalink
  4. Tom Dilberger wrote:

    While I essentially agree with the lawsuits, let’s not hang are hat on lawsuits. The whole idea here is whether or not Matt has/is performing the job as mayor adequately. The answer easily is that he is not and should be replaced by Jim. Besides Jim, let’s remember, it is very important that Mike win also. So let’s keep Mike in the picture as much as possible

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  5. batman wrote:

    It seems clear to me which people are behind the current “situation” in Mini-Gotham. The above referenced parties, of course. Vote for Jim Bean. Clear out all the rascals.

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  6. Tulip wrote:

    I would think the local Democrats would be honored to know that some of their own are helping the tax payers. I am thrilled and grateful.

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 9:52 pm | Permalink
  7. batman wrote:

    I thank the mayor for monkey-wrenching the building of the pavilions by creating dissension about their funding and hope the delay is prolonged. Why? Maybe more residents will appreciate the unobstructed view of the ocean and realize that the structures are really unnecessary. Two summers have passed and the Borough of Belmar has done very well without them. Batman likes to stroll the boardwalk and watch the ocean. He also watches the government of Belmar – “Beautiful Sea”. Too bad the elected officials are not as “beautiful” in character and they certainly should be obstructed in their “alleged” shenanigans. (OK, maybe one little building with bathrooms but not much more.) Vote for Jim and Mike.

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  8. Claire Deicke wrote:

    What are you suggesting, Gene? To tar and feather me? Are you suggesting a suit against me or throwing me into the pokey? I’m holding some of yoour people accountable for comments about me on this blog….they could be breaking the law- How about the administrator of this blog smoking on the beach… is on this blog….not comparable to what you’re suggesting? Many think posing with a cigarette when the local ordinance says-no smoking on the beach is offensive-displaying blatant disobedience of the law- is that OK with you? Don’t attempt to smear my name- If anyone comes after me after your post, I’ll hold you accountable…also fro Tulip-I think that you should know that some of the people who generally support Republican viewpoints are now supporting the Doherty-Brennan-ticket-

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
  9. admin wrote:

    Claire, that picture was taken in New Hampshire.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  10. Southie wrote:

    Claire are you out of your mind? People responding on this blog could be breaking the law. What law, the mayor hasn’t pointed to me to speak at a meeting, law? Talking about breaking the law, walk up to the microphone at meetings like everyone else. Are you physically disabled? I hadn’t noticed my apologies if you are. You hold no special consideration. Remember it’s about people not favors given to certain people that makes it about politics but you know that.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  11. Claire Deicke wrote:

    thank you, Dav-sorry abou that

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink
  12. Claire Deicke wrote:

    Southis-My knee slips out oft times when I Stand after sitting for a long period of time.have had this problem for many years..that’s why I stay by my seat-… time, if my knee feels like its slipping out of joint, and I wish to speak, I’ll stay seated…..Yes- Southie-check out some of the remarks on this blog (comments) since 2012…. objectional, to say the least…considered libelous by some….you obviously haven’t done your homework…Out of my mind? Really? Maybe you’ll assist me if my knee goes out at a meeting-I’m receiving a favor by not going up to the microphone? That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? Get yourself together- also, use your actual name-tell me that I’m out of my mind under your real name….

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  13. Eugene Creamer wrote:

    Claire, the words in my posting #3 are not all mine …. it is Superior Court Judge Lawson’s opinion of YOU, Doherty, Magovern and Nicolay …. “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” ….
    Apparently, the good mayor did not share a copy of the “Grau Opinion” with you …. go to the frontpage of this website and enter -Grau Opinion- in the search box along the right side … please read and explain to Belmar Taxpayers why they are paying legal fees for the actions of these elected officials.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  14. George wrote:

    Maybe we should boycott the businesses that are calling people that are not residents to receive an absentee ballot even though they do not live in Belmar!!

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  15. Claire Deicke wrote:

    Gene-I don’t think that the the judge said, “These elected officials should be held accountable for their actions…..”What are you suggesting? How should i pay for this egregious crime? What are your motives in this posting? Thanks for putting the word YOU in capital letters……very thoughtful of you..

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  16. Eugene Creamer wrote:

    I am suggesting that Belmartians use their vote to hold elected officials accountable for their actions …. Inasmuch as YOU are not running for office and appear immune …. the only remedy may be to discount any candidate YOU endorse.

    Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink
  17. guardian angel wrote:

    I am disappointed in you, Mrs. Deicke. I thought you had some decency left, but it appears that politics has blemished your soul.

    Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  18. Claire Deicke wrote:

    y soul is intact-I’m not disappointed in my soul-who are you to judge? Why don’t you make this statement with your real name? At least have the decency to insult me using your actual name……what kind of a person throws barbs with a ficticious name? using guardian angel… hpyocritical can you get? What skeltons do you have in your close that you use a fake name? I pityy you……no condifence in your own words…..what have you done for your community lately? I have a wieghty list of accomplishments-

    Friday, October 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

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