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Reprinted With The Permission Of The Coast Star:


Suit against Borough in the $$MILLIONS!


Doherty, Connolly, Huisman, Nicolay, Blackburn, Brennan, Klein, Palmisano also to be sued personally!


Borough can’t produce police report, yet denies license!


Coast Star files OPRA complaint!


Apparent favoritism towards Chefs International!


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BELMAR — Since June 8, when the Belmar Borough Council voted to reject a liquor license transfer application by Timothy and Matthew Harmon, their lawyer has made three separate requests for a copy of a report by the borough’s police department, which had investigated the application for more than a year.

On Tuesday, more than three weeks after The Coast Star filed an Open Public Records Act [OPRA] request for the report, the borough’s business administrator Colleen Connolly, said it does not exist.

“There is no report,” Ms. Connolly told The Coast Star. “I do not have it. It does not exist.”

Three weeks earlier, on June 20, Borough Clerk April Claudio had replied to the June 16 OPRA request by emailing: “Waiting on report from PD. Will send once receive.”

Council President Brian Magovern, who cast the only vote in favor of the Harmons’ application, said the council would “usually” be supplied with a copy of such a report prior to a vote but said he could not “be certain” whether one was provided to the council before the 2-1 vote rejecting the Harmon’s application on June 8.

Councilman Magovern said he did, however, see a recommendation by the Belmar Police Department stating there were no issues to disqualify the transfer so long as it was subject to restrictions.

Before Ms. Connolly’s statement on Tuesday, Councilwoman Janis Keown-Blackburn, who voted against the application, was asked whether she had seen a police report on it.

“No, I have not,” she said. She also said the council is provided with police reports for liquor license investigations “sometimes and sometimes not.”

Councilwoman Jennifer Nicolay, who had cast the other vote against the Harmons’ application, has not responded to requests for comment. Neither has Belmar Police Chief Andrew Huisman, who had begun the police investigation of the application while still a captain in the department.

Mayor Matt Doherty, who was not present when the council voted on the Harmons’ application, said this week that he had not seen a police report on it.

An apparent reference to the police recommendation recalled by Councilman Magovern was made by the borough in its response to an appeal filed by the Harmons with the state’s Division of Aloholic Beverage Control [ABC]. In it, the borough states that on June 2, the Belmar Police Department submitted a “recommendation” to the borough council “whereby Belmar PD [sic] found no issues that would disqualify a transfer of the license, so long as the transferred license was made subject to certain conditions to address Belmar PD’s public safety concerns [e.g. noise, parking, security, etc.] each of which is a typical condition for any liquor license issued by the Borough.”

However, no such recommendation was provided to The Coast Star’s OPRA request for a report from the police investigation. As a consequence, The Coast Star filed a Denial of Access Complaint with the New Jersey Government Records Council on July 12.

In contrast, another June 16 OPRA request from The Coast Star, seeking a copy of the liquor license investigation for a different applicant, Anchor Tavern, yielded a relevant document within four days. It was a copy of a letter from Chief Huisman to the mayor and council, recommending the approval of a person to person liquor license transfer from Connolly Station to Anchor Tavern, which is owned by Chefs International. That application was approved by the council.

Mr. McLaughlin, who filed the ABC appeal on behalf of the Harmons, told The Coast Star this week that the borough refuses to provide a copy of such a recommendation to him or his clients.

In its reponse to the appeal, Belmar maintains that “it is not the Borough’s standard practice to provide liquor license applicants with a copy of Belmar PD’s actual investigative summary/report and Petitioners fail to cite any statute or regulation that requires it to do so.”

According to a spokesperson from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control who did not wish to be identified, the production and issuance of such a report is recommended but not legally required.

Mr. McLaughlin, however, maintains that his clients are entitled to receive such a report.

“I have never experienced this in my practice,” said Mr. McLaughlin, who has over 30 years of experience in municipal law. “In fact, as a municipal attorney, I have always provided a copy of the police report to an applicant as soon as it is ready.”

Mr. McLaughlin, who has filed notice of a multi-million dollar damage suit against the borough, asserted that the Belmar Police Department was instructed not to produce a report on the Harmon’s application, despite spending 14 months investigating it.

“There is no question in our minds that they were told to delay and not produce a report,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

When asked if he believes the report exists, Mr. McLaughlin stated, “If this were any other town, I would, but frankly, since it’s Belmar, I have no clue.”


Salt, located at 710 River Road on the water, is an outdoor establishment featuring a tented outdoor cafe and three tiki style bars, four gas fire pits, spaces for food trucks on site and outdoor entertainment including live music, all contained within the property.

The property is owned by developer Greg Kapalko, of Loko Co. LLC., who entered into a redevelopment agreement with the borough in 2014. The agreement called for an outdoor bar and tiki style bar on the site.

The Harmons applied for a liquor license transfer from 507 Main to Salt on April 28, 2015, initiating a routine investigation by the police department that is standard in this type of request. Under the Alcoholic Beverage Control [ABC] Law, this type of an investigation must be completed with 60 days of filing, according to Mr. McLaughlin.

The investigation was led by Chief Huisman, then a captain in the Belmar Police Department. He has since been promoted to chief. According to Mr. McLaughlin, Chief Huisman did not begin his investigation until after the 60 day mark, claiming that he had not yet had the time start.

An investigation that should have taken 60 days devolved into 14 months of circuitous and often redundant questioning, repetitive scrutiny and procedural delays that the Harmons and Mr. McLaughlin said they now believe were blatant attempts to stall the opening of Salt.

Throughout the investigation, the Harmons were required to submit bank statements for themselves and individuals who loaned them money in the form of promisory notes, received a stop work order due to alterations to the site plan and were repeatedly told that the transfer could not be added to the council’s agenda for a vote.

After a number of restrictions were imposed on the Harmons’ liquor license, the council ultimately voted to reject the transfer on June 8.

On Tuesday, June 14, Mr. McLaughlin filed an appeal to the state division of ABC on the grounds that his clients were not provided with notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to the rejection of transfer, as required by state law; that the vote conflicts with the redevelopment agreement which provides for an outdoor bar in this space; and that the planning board approved the site plan on two separate occasions, among others.

The notice and petition of appeal also pointed out that Ms. Nicolay and Ms. Keown-Blackburn’s concerns involving the outdoor bar had not been raised with other licensed establishments containing outdoor bars, such as D’Jais and 10th Avenue Burrito Company.

The notice also states that 9th Avenue Pier, owned by Chefs International, has never been cause for concern for the borough, though it contains an outdoor bar. It goes on to state that the 9th Avenue Pier property is owned by the borough and that the borough is paid by Chefs International for the leasing of the facility, making it “inappropriate for the Borough of Belmar to review or act upon” the Harmon’s application,” and called for the borough to be disqualified from the consideration of any alcoholic beverage matters.

According to the notice and petition for appeal, Mr. McLaughlin seeks reversal of the council’s decision to deny the Harmons’ liquor license transfer, for the transfer to be approved on “an expedited basis,” and for the Borough of Belmar and the police department to be removed from any enforcement responsibilities with respect to the Dockside Dining, LLC. license “because of the obvious prejudice of the Borough against the licensee/transferee.”

The borough and related parties could also face a lawsuit stemming from the rejection of the transfer.

According to Mr. McLaughlin, Mayor Doherty, Ms. Connolly, Chief Huisman, Ms. Nicolay, Ms. Keown-Blackburn and Mr. Brennan were served as borough officials and as individuals on Friday, June 10 with notice of “litigation about to be commenced,” and a requirement that they preserve all electronic and written communications relevant to the case.

Ollie Klein of Klein’s Fishmarket was also served on Friday, June 10. Former police chief Thomas Palmisano was served on Monday, June 13 and Chefs International was served on Tuesday, June 14.

According to Mr. McLaughlin, his clients are seeking damages including legal fees and punitive damages. Though Mr. McLaughlin declined to disclose an exact amount, he stated that it is in the “millions.”

Mr. McLaughlin stated that the Harmons’ contractual and civil rights had been violated, as well as the rights of the developer Greg Kapalko of Loko Co., LLC.

“I think that there are any number of borough officials who are responsible to the Harmons and responsible to Mr. Kapalko, not only as borough officials but personally. They have personal liability because they have gone beyond their scope as public officials. They have violated their oaths and they’ve taken action to intentionally harm the Harmons and intentionally harm Mr. Kapalko and his partners at Loko [Co. LLC],” Mr. McLaughlin said.


Also in today’s Star:

Pay to Play referendum coming?

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BELMAR — The future of the borough’s controversial and now-defunct amended pay-to-play law remains uncertain as the borough is faced with either repealing the ordinance or holding a referendum.

On July 1, Superior Court Judge Katie A. Gummer issued an order to the borough stating the mayor and council’s actions in rejecting a petition against the amended pay-to-play law violated the “Faulkner Act’s provisions governing referendum petitions,” according to the order.

The order goes on to state that Borough Clerk April Claudio “shall immediately take all necessary action to schedule and conduct a referendum on Ordinance No. 2016-01,” unless the ordinance is repealed or the Committee of Petitioners withdraws the petition.

However, according to Ken Pringle, the attorney for the Committee of Petitioners, under the conditions of the Faulkner Act the timeframe in which the borough could have repealed the ordinance or the petitioner could have withdrawn the petition has long passed, leaving a referendum as the only option.

The Committee of Petitioners includes Mr. Pringle and Belmar residents Thomas Fahy, Linda Sharkus, Linda Chelsen and Katrina Clapsis.

Judge Gummer’s latest order upholds her previous order, in which she determined the newly amended ordinance will be suspended pending the result of a referendum and ordered Ms. Claudio to reverse any changes to the ordinance made in online or printed versions of the borough code.

According to the order, Judge Gummer awarded the petitioners attorney’s fees and costs.

The borough will have until July 29 to file any opposition to the amount of fees and costs sought by the petitioners, according to the order.

“The judge’s order is not at all surprising,” Mr. Pringle said.

“The law regulating the Faulkner Act is quite clear. There are no circumstances in which a municipality may lawfully reject a referendum petition,” he said.

Mayor Matthew Doherty would not comment on the borough’s plan to proceed.

“Our attorneys are handling that,” he said.

“My only comment really would be that it’s important to keep in mind the folks who are suing over there. People in Belmar know that this is completely political and any time you see Ken Pringle’s name attached to a lawsuit in Belmar you know it’s political garbage,” Mayor Doherty said.

The borough’s attorney, Ramon E. Rivera, of Scarinci Hollenbeck, in Lyndhurst, did not reply to requests for comment by press time.


Judge Gummer’s April 28 order required Ms. Claudio to reverse any changes made to the borough’s pay-to-play law online and in printed form by 5 p.m. on April 29.

However, the amended ordinance remained on the borough’s online code until May 5.

Ms. Claudio told The Coast Star the borough remained inactive on the order due to the fact that she had not “received anything from our attorney advising that any decision had been made on the lawsuit” prior to the deadline.

Thanks, Coast Star!



  1. A Voter 2 wrote:

    They all are probably trying to figure out how to get out of this one. Meanwhile Claire and her gang are regrouping and probably trying to figure out who the mole is and how are they going to get away with the usual shenanigans,we are watching:)

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  2. Eugene Creamer wrote:

    “My only comment really would be that it’s important to keep in mind the folks who are suing over there. People in Belmar know that this is completely political and any time you see Ken Pringle’s name attached to a lawsuit in Belmar you know it’s political garbage,” Mayor Doherty said.

    115 Inlet Terrace is full of political garbage …. and it stinks!

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    If the named parties are found personally responsible, wouldn’t that mean all the taxpayers of Belmar would be able to sue these same officials to recoupe all the money they just cost us ?

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  4. A Observation wrote:

    Not to worry if they get sued personally, Sementa and the Unions will hold a benefit fundraiser at D’Jais.

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  5. Resident wrote:

    What’s political Lawless Matt is that you are unfit for elected office as all you do is waste taxpayers money. Dope. So the count is 9 lawsuits won by dozens of different plaintiffs and 0 for Belmar. Under your administration Belmar is no longer a family community but an animal house that owes 49 million dollars due to your asinine decisions

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  6. Cersei Lannister wrote:

    Shame. Shame. Shame. Confess.

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  7. Matt Poorherty wrote:

    All men were created equal

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink
  8. Betty wrote:

    The word “folks” is completely overused and quite frankly, demeaning to the intelligent people of our town. Also, what does “over there” mean?

    Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink
  9. joe goofinoff wrote:

    #7 – Hopefully, you don’t believe that. That type of childish silly reasoning has led to a whole lot of blood being spilled in our nation. What Jefferson meant was all men are equal before the law.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 6:13 am | Permalink
  10. Selfish Matt wrote:

    Matt is a disaster for our town. He is selfish and irresponsible. Anytime I see Ken Pringle’s name involved in the lawsuites, I feel assured truth will be determined and fairness ensue. Matt is a scoundrel.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    Georgetown’Philosophy Programs have a living alumni to counterbalance Plato’s Ethics.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    How does McGovern feel about Blackburn’s decision on SALT?

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink
  13. ms.perspicacity wrote:

    Magovern must have had an off-day when he solely voted “yes”, a brief moment of independence that would eliminate him from being personally sued. Will that be a wake up call for him? Interesting thought, as he may end up being the next mayor by default.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink
  14. concerned wrote:

    The last two Mayors of Belmar who have held a seat are both Georgetown graduates. Kenny = Academic Scholarship, Matt = Athletic Scholarship. Brain vs Brawn

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  15. ms.perspicacity wrote:

    By the way, Mr. Magovern implied that the Harmons have supported his project(s) in the past, (money talks?) so he is not really off the hook (unbiased), so to speak. At least this time he broke from the Council thinking/voting pattern. The force (luck) was with him this time. Who knew what, when? I would not let any of those characters off the hook, but facts are facts. My defense rests…

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  16. admin wrote:

    Yes, I’ve said that before. Whether or not the Harmons are nice guys is irrelevant.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  17. ALLTRUMPEDUP wrote:

    McGovern’s vote was irrelevant. He was allowed to save face as the other two were told how to vote. We the taxpayers can vote also, get rid of them all, one by one, two by two.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    Probably NIMBY pressure from inlet terrace Rez e dents. No closing off the street in front of Kleins/Salt either. Picadilly Circus,

    Parking lot plan presure in this high stakes game with taxpayer money.

    Friday, July 15, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

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