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Monmouth County Freeholders Approve Preservation of Lucas' Farm

Monmouth County narrowly voted to approve the payment, just as the Township Committee barely approved payment to them the night before.

The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted to approve a payment to Manalapan Township Committeeman Andrew Lucas for the developmental rights to his Burke Farm, the county’s percentage of the nearly $1.16 million deal, the Asbury Park Press reported.

According to the Asbury Park Press, The Freeholders voted 3-2 in approval of a resolution which dispenses $277,920 from Monmouth County’s Open Space Trust Fund for the developmental rights of the farm, a 96-acre property located on Iron Ore Road in Manalapan Township.

The heated Freeholder meeting on Thursday came on the heels of Manalapan’s narrow vote approving the payment of the Township’s percentage of the deal to the county, which the Township is legally obligated to pay. The application was previously approved by the State Agriculture Development Committee, Monmouth County, and Manalapan Township.

Manalapan Mayor Susan Cohen and Committeeman Don Holland voted to approve extract of payment, Committeeman Ryan Green voted no, and Deputy Mayor Jordan Maskowitz abstained; Lucas was absent from the meeting.

The Mayor stated that she is, and has always been, in favor of farmland preservation which is why she voted in favor of the payment to the county.

Maskowitz reached out to Patch to explain his abstention saying that he had some reservations about the fact that the application involves a sitting Committeeman, “specifically the perception of 'unethical behavior' this has created among some of our residents.”

This unethical behavior was brought to light by Manalapan resident Larry Furman during the public comment portion of the Township Committee meeting Wednesday night. Furman said that Lucas “wore two hats” while he submitted his application for farmland preservation two years ago by being both the seller of the developer rights of the farm and a broker for the buyer as a sitting politician.

This application was brought to the State Ethics Board last year and the ethics violation charges, filed by former Manalapan Mayor George Spodak, were dismissed in October.

Given the fact that no misconduct was found following two investigations by the State Ethics Board, Maskowitz said he felt that voting against the purchase order to Monmouth County "would have sent a negative signal to our residents regarding our Farmland Preservation Program." Rather, Maskowitz said he chose to abstain from the vote which sent a clearer message in his opinion.

"The question which ultimately clarified the issue for me was, 'If given the same opportunity would I do the same thing as a sitting Committeeman?' To which my obvious answer is, 'No!'” Maskowitz said.

Patch reached out to Green for comment on his "no" vote against the purchase order, but has not heard back.

anonymous March 01, 2013 at 09:54 PM
"...Maskowitz reached out to Patch to explain his abstention saying that he had some reservations about the fact that the application involves a sitting Committeeman, “specifically the perception of 'unethical behavior' this has created among some of our residents...” Mr Maskowitz, perception is reality. If you thought and perceived it was unethical--that's because it was!!! Your abstention was the cowardly way out instead of standing up to unethical behavior and your fellow Republicans. Shame on you!
Jordan Maskowitz March 02, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Dear Anonymous? The following is my complete statement. "While I support our Farmland Preservation Program to keep Manalapan's Farmland history moving forward, I have some reservations regarding the fact this application involves a sitting committeeman, specifically the perception of "unethical behavior" this has created among some of our residents. I continue to believe strongly that our residents should not be denied the opportunity to preserve the Burke Farm's 99 acres, thus fostering our goal of controlling overdevelopment. The project was approved by the SADC and the county, conclusively establishing there was no illegality with respect to this application. Due to the fact no impropriety was found following two seperate investigations by the State Ethics Board, I felt that a NO vote would have sent a negative signal to our residents regarding our Farmland Preservation Program. I felt an abstention sent a clearer message that, while I support the project, there remains the aforementioned perception conflict. The question which ultimately clarified the issue for me was, "If given the same opportunity would I do the same thing as a sitting Committeeman," to which my obvious answer is NO!" Jordan Maskowitz Deputy Mayor
Stop the insanity March 02, 2013 at 02:22 PM
Nicely said Deputy Mayor.
Curious George March 02, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Mr. Maskowitz, with all due respect: You were elected by Manalapan residents to vote on various issues that come before the committee. This issue regarding the funding for the Lucas farm was just about this particular application. It wasn't about how you felt in general about supporting the Farmland Preservation Program. You stated that "I have some reservations regarding the fact this application involves a sitting committeeman, specifically the perception of "unethical behavior" this has created among some of our residents". Yet, you decided to put those ethics aside and abstain from voting your conscience, knowing that your abstention would allow the proposal to pass...A simple explanation prior to your no vote would have explained that while you support the concept of the Farmland Preservation Program, you can't in good conscience vote for this proposal because it involves a sitting committeeman. I believe you violated the trust of your supporters who voted for you.
the font March 02, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Clearly the initial sale proposal should have and did raise concerns. However, after proper vetting and review of the matter, a just conclusion was reached. Nothing about Mr. Maskowitz's absention was unethical. To state otherwise is petty and clearly partisan.
Sarah March 02, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Mr Maskowitz = Coward . Did he ever hear of fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers vs giving his friend mr. Lucas a million dollars of taxpayers monies. He is up for reelection this year. Vote him out!!
Lawrence J. Furman March 03, 2013 at 10:47 AM
Freeholder Gary RIch said "Another Freeholder board already voted on this. We are just approving (rubberstamping) the vote." That's courage. Madam Freeholder Lillian Burry basically said "I am from New York City, I have done much for this County and I am above reproach. And my lawyer (paid for by the County) told me 'It's ok for me to vote to give Mr. Lucas this $1.2 Million (Even tho Lucas raised money for my campaign.)'"
Redacted March 03, 2013 at 02:45 PM
This whole transaction is PERFECTLY LEGAL under current existing law. Pay up. If you don't like this get the laws pertaining to Public Officials obtaining any public grant monies changed or massive montetary sick time payouts upon retirement or outrageous amounts of pension benefits paid out after 20 years of contributions in or on and on and on. Unfortunately, Morality & legality are two different things here.
Curious George March 03, 2013 at 03:06 PM
I'm sorry...If Mr. Maskwitz really believed, as he stated, that he had reservations because of the perception of unethical behavior because it involved a sitting committeeman, he should have voted NO. Too many of our serious problems in this country are caused by politicians NOT voting their conscience but their political expediency. As we have seen in this case, an abstention was no different from a YES vote. An abstention is just an easy way out of being held to a decision.

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