Democratic Freeholder Candidate Sues Monmouth County Over Lucas Farm Deal

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.

The normally straight forward procedure of purchasing qualified land for open space and farmland preservation became controversial and political in this instance because Lucas did not immediately recuse himself from Manalapan Township Committee discussions over the purchase. Eventually the State’s Local Finance Board’s Ethics Committee cleared the sale because Lucas recused himself from votes on the matter and had consulted the Township’s attorney regarding his participation the process.  In their ruling, the Local Finance Board said they would be issuing new rules for government officials regarding these types of transactions.

In his suit, which can be found here, Luttrell alleges that Burry had a conflict of interest that should have disqualified her from voting on the funding resolution because Lucas held a fundraiser for her at the farm in October of 2011.

Monmouth County has filed a motion to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim for relief.

Luttrell said that all he wants is for the Court to invalidate the resolution because of Burry’s conflict and send it back to the Freeholder board for reconsideration.

“My objective is accountability. Burry should not have voted on the resolution,” Luttrell said, “All I am asking the Court to do is invalidate the resolution and put it back to a vote. The remaining four Freeholders can approve it if they want to, assuming Lucas doesn’t hold a fundraiser for them either.”

An attorney familiar with the case who asked not to be named said Luttrell was wasting the taxpayers’ money for his own political purposes by filing a nuisance lawsuit.  “If this was a serious suit, Larry would have sued Manalapan and the State as well,” said the attorney, “While I think the suit is without merit, the issues he raises apply to Manalapan and the state.”

Burry said the suit is “absurd.”

“Totally and completely out of line,” Burry said of the suit. “I received no personal gain from the sale or from the event at the farm which was a casual bonfire. It wasn’t a fundraiser just for me. I have no idea how the money was handled or where it went.  There were many other politicians there. Rob Clifton, Ron Dancer, Susan Cohen and Don Holland to name a few.  It wasn’t some big gala.  It was a casual bonfire out in the middle of the field.”

Clifton was a Monmouth County Freeholder running for State Assembly at the time of the fundraiser. Dancer, an Assemlyman, is Clifton’s running mate in the 12th legislative district. Cohen is the Mayor of Manalapan and was a Township Committee Member, as was Holland, at the time of the bonfire.

“I’ve been involved in farmland preservation for 18 years and I don’t own a farm,” said Burry, ” I’m glad we were able to preserve this land.  We are the Garden State after all.”

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 2013 Election, Lillian Burry, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth Democrats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

10 Comments on “Democratic Freeholder Candidate Sues Monmouth County Over Lucas Farm Deal”

  1. Politicalpony said at 9:57 pm on June 11th, 2013:

    Although preserving land is a noble cause, what are the latter consequences when doing so at an extreme? Set aside the fact that we have ICLIE and Sustainable NJ tied to links with the United Nations Agenda 21, what does it mean for the tax payers of the county? Revenue loss in a few different ways I would imagine. The loss of development which would accumulate property taxes from homes and business being built. The state, county and townships lose all types of revenue. Then the cost of purchasing such properties that falls on the tax payers of the state. The maintenance must run into the hundreds of thousands each year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the great out doors as much as the next person. But when is enough enough? Example, Driving from Freehold to Englishtown, on the left a very large township our county park dressed with large night lights, soccer fields, tennis courts, on and on. Across the street is a high school. I ask, why didn’t they just utilize the high school property for all of that. I don’t know the size if the park, but just driving past it my guess is not less than 50 acres. Colts, there us a big beautiful farm in Phalanx. Stone wall carefully laid along the road, house sits so far back you can’t see it from the road. Recently the township or county “I assume county” on a county road placed not less than 30 beautiful trees between the stone wall and road. I ask, why? There certainly wasn’t an eye sore. And the cost if the trees surely could have easily been paid for by the owner if the private property. Dore Brook park “county” in colts neck. My guess, not less than 200 acres probably more. For what? Most of it just sits there. There’s no telling how many farms have been bought of their building rights along that same road. I know if one that was 100 acres. So I ask, why does government by up all this property? I’m sure our county thinks they are preserving for our future. But is it for all the right reasons? And have they thought out any long term consequences that might arrive from this? When the government close property from the public, surrounding property prices go up. With that so does property taxes. Who are they locking out initially? Who will be locked out in the future? What may eventually become of the property and it’s use in the future? What’s to stop the government from discontinuing it’s public use in any form? What’s to stop a government from deciding to put a form of dwellings in any of these properties as they deem proper? After all, they own they own the building rights. All they need do is take more tax payer money and purchase the property. In some cases with these contacts, over time they take full control of these properties, if not wholly own them. Think about it.

  2. The voters voted twice said at 6:43 am on June 12th, 2013:

    to tax themselves more, with a large majority, many years ago on referendum,to create and sustain parklands and preserve farms. Look around this county and state. There are very few acres of preservable land left. Period. The programs have multiple steps to go through to buy and preserve lands. The people love their parks, don’t care who may have owned the lands, and, if you did a poll, you’d learn that a majority of people want every parcel possible preserved. Period. This appears to be a dangerous pair running this year: ZERO positive ideas to make anything better.. ZERO to offer in the way of accomplishments and credentials.. This manner of campaigning that has become the norm, of trying to get cheap headlines, without any money or support,and tear down what took decades to build for their own gain, has become very disturbing, here.. The voters will resoundingly defeat this person and his negative running mate,in November..

  3. Barry said at 7:41 am on June 12th, 2013:

    FYI there are no County parks in Manalapan, That park Political Phony refers to is Manalapan Townshipl land land. It has been preserved for almost 30 years

  4. Sancho Panza said at 8:34 am on June 12th, 2013:

    @FYI there are no County parks in Manalapan:
    Never saw or heard of the Pine Brook Golf Course???????

  5. Barry said at 8:51 am on June 12th, 2013:

    Yeah an Executive golf course wholly within covered bridge really has broad appeal for the County residents. if you look at the other County parks that is like a pimple on your ass

  6. Jim said at 10:10 am on June 12th, 2013:

    A golf course appeals to, well, golfers. On the other hand, a county park has all amenities you want to take your family to enjoy.

  7. Has The Equine Imbecile said at 10:43 am on June 12th, 2013:

    ever heard of paragraphs, as in creating a few so the reader can at least take a break from her run on rants and babbles?

    Enough is enough when we have green space preserved that prevents the county looking like North Jersey.

  8. the county has, I believe, said at 5:33 pm on June 12th, 2013:

    recently acquired the outdoor pool and some open space at the former Ft. Monmouth site, for use by the residents, which our parks system will upkeep..and, opted to not get another golf course at this time, feeling we have enough of those right now.. whether it is done with greenspace dollars set aside with the ok of the taxpayers, from a town, the county, or the state, most people agree that any saved space, (and I agree with: “@has the.., “) is a good thing, and true, keeps us from being like the North!..now, if we can only get the state to stop making too many more lanes on the GS Pkway, and stop defoliating that lovely road, so that doesn’t turn out like the turnpike, it would be a good thing, too!

  9. @the county said at 6:40 pm on June 12th, 2013:

    Keep in mind though, golf is good business. 🙂

    @has the

  10. Sancho Panza said at 12:01 pm on June 21st, 2013:

    @” if you look at the other County parks that is like a pimple on your ass.”
    Considering the lack of use at Monmouth Battlefield from township residents, the golf course proves to be quite popular.