Asbury Park Press Gets Its Facts Wrong Again

No news. Empty newsstands stored in the Asbury Park Press's empty parking lot in Neptune.

No news. Empty newsstands stored in the Asbury Park Press’s empty parking lot in Neptune.

This morning the Asbury Park Press Neptune Nudniks have an article about something that might be happening and that might cause something else that’s bad to happen.

Two of the three mayors on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority may be breaking confidentiality rules — and possibly jeopardizing millions of dollars in redevelopment deals — to keep their governing bodies up to date on property negotiations affecting their towns. (Emphasis added)

In a nutshell, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) is the entity responsible for redeveloping the fort that Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt let get away.  The authority is governed by a 13 member board. 6 of the board members are representives of the State government. 1 is a Monmouth County Freeholder, 3 are “public members.” The final three are the mayors of the communities that host the fort, Oceanport, Tinton Falls and Eatontown. 

Here’s where APP reporter Bill Bowman got a basic fact wrong:

A state authority under the umbrella of the state Department of Community Affairs, FMERA is the sole body that seeks out potential buyers and lessors and negotiates and approves contracts for the property.

FMERA is not under the umbrella of the state Department of Community Affairs.  It is an independent authority staffed by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The controversy that the APP is stiring up over something that hasn’t happened is about two of the three mayors on the FMERA board briefing the other members of their towns’ governing bodies, in confidential executive sessions, about what is happening at the fort. Those mayors are Michael Mahon of Oceanport and Michael Skudera of Tinton Falls.  The third mayor, Gerald Tarantolo of Eatontown, is not filling his council in on what’s happening at FMERA meetings, maintaining that doing so would be “leaking” confidential information.  Members of the Eatontown council are frustrated with Tarantolo’s silence.

There have been no incidents of confidential negotiations blowing up or parties colluding reported. But the APP reporter goes on about what could happen if confidential information was leaked by a member of the  Oceanport or Tinton Falls councils, in violation of their fiduciary responsibilities.

MMM suspects there is more that the APP has screwed up about this “story.”  We’re reaching out to Skudera and Mahon to see if they were quoted accurately.

It is most unusual that FMERA employees would trash board members in the newspaper, as happened in this “story.” 

But Bruce Steadman, FMERA’s executive director, said the two mayors’ actions are problematic.

“As a board member, the mayor is entrusted with confidential FMERA operating information that must remain confidential until it is appropriate to be made public,” he said.

Really?  Steadman saying that, in the context printed, would be like County Administrator Teri O’Connor trashing a freeholder or Middletown Administrator Tony Mercantante trashing Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger.  Steadman can’t be as foolish as Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal.  We’ll also be reaching out to Steadman.

Last week the Nudniks got their facts wrong in two editorials.  One about the Middletown Library Director’s emails and the other about Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton.  

There’s good reason to believe that the APP is making up their own facts to create a story where there isn’t one here.

Posted: July 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Asbury Park Press, FMERA, Fort Monmouth, Neptune Nudniks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

3 Comments on “Asbury Park Press Gets Its Facts Wrong Again”

  1. Bob English said at 12:35 pm on July 17th, 2013:

    First of all I am not on a Borough Council or involved with municipal government so I have no idea what any Mayor does or does not say to their individual Councils. While everyone certainly understands that the names of potential property developers need to remain confidential until agreements are signed, everyone also needs to understand that Council members of the three host towns have a responsibility to the citizens who elected them to office to represent those citizens best interests. That is pretty tough to do when you have one arm tied behind your back and have no more access to information than what is available to the general public. Until recently (when board packets are now put online at 2 PM on the day of the meeting) board packets were not available to members or the public until they walked in the door at the …monthly FMERA meeting. Those contain resolutions that are being voted on at that nights meeting. So under the way business is currently conducted, elected Council members of the three host towns don’t have access to this information (which can be 50+ pages) until 5 hours before the meeting (assuming their job responsibilities even permit them a few minutes to look it over.)

    I would note that Councilman Talerico, of Eatontown has attended almost every FMERA meeting that I have been at and has publically raised questions and objections to possible actions that would not be in the best interest of Eatontown. Issues regarding the location and operation of the County DPW, possible rental apartments on Parcel B (even though Eatontown has specifically said in reuse plan comments that it does not want any additional rental housing) and not adding to the housing number spelled out in the reuse plan are all issues of concern. So from my perspective as a resident and property taxpayer of the Borough, Mr. Talerico is doing exactly what I would expect an elected official who represents me to be doing even though he has limited access to information. While I can’t speak for other towns, I have constantly heard members of Eatontown Borough Council express frustration as to the lack of information they receive as well as hearing Mayor Tarantolo’s reply that he is limited as to what he can say by FMERA confidentiality rules.

    In closing I would again note that while certain things (potential developers names, etc.) need to remain confidential, there are many other items and details that the Mayors certainly should be able to share with their Borough Councils even if it is in closed session especially when those issues will have huge impacts on the three host towns for decades to come.

  2. Joseph Irace said at 12:40 pm on July 18th, 2013:

    My Comments made at last night’s FMERA Meeting: Full disclosure, I am Oceanport’s Council President

    Today’s Asbury Park Press article regarding FMERA and the three Fort Monmouth host towns was disturbing to say the least. Apparently, the Mayors of Oceanport and Tinton Falls are in trouble with FMERA’s Executive Director for reporting back to their respective municipal councils. It appears that the mayors of Oceanport and Tinton Falls are doing something that the Mayor of Eatontown is not and Eatontown Council doesn’t like it. I’m guessing this is what makes it news.
    I believe that the mayors of Oceanport and Eatontown share information necessary to keep their respective councils informed regarding the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth. I believe that neither of the mayors were taking any confidential operating information and making it PUBLIC. They are not putting any Fort Monmouth plans in jeopardy! They were and are, in fact, bringing information back to the municipal bodies that they are part of by virtue of their election into office. They were and are bringing that information back as part of an executive session that excludes the general public from the municipal council meetings. The confidential nature of the executive sessions the municipal councils partake in are the SAME as the ones that FMERA partakes in. Nothing is being made public that shouldn’t be made public. Frankly, the Mayors of Oceanport and Tinton Falls are doing the job they were elected to do!
    Oceanport’s residents have been through a lot over the past few years. I am proud to be a member of our community and our Borough Council. I think FMERA has forgotten that FMERA is funded by taxpayer dollars. For a salaried, appointed bureaucrat to question the integrity of our local elected officials is just wrong. There is a distinct difference between “leaking” information and “conveying” information. I believe that it is each mayor’s obligation and duty to convey as much information as possible to their respective municipal councils in executive session. Mike Mahon takes his duties as Mayor seriously and he is committed to maintaining an active, informed and participatory governing body.
    To quote the press, “But Bruce Steadman, FMERA’s executive director, said the mayors, as board members, are “entrusted with confidential FMERA operating information that must remain confidential until it is appropriate to be made public.” However, Mr. Steadman seems to think that FMERA operates in a vacuum, independent of the communities it will impact upon and the form of government under which they operate.
    The investment that the Army, FMERA’s board and FMERA’s bureaucracy have in the Fort’s redevelopment pales in comparison to that of Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls. The Army has already abandoned us and, in time, FMERA will be gone, too. And we’ll be left to deal with your decisions for generations to come. This necessitates that the elected officials in Eatontown, Tinton Falls and Oceanport be kept in the information loop.
    To suggest that disciplinary action may be in order when, in fact, the Mayors in question are only doing their job, is preposterous! In my opinion, an apology is in order to both Mayor Mahon and Mayor Skudera and, more importantly, maybe FMERA should follow the lead of Oceanport and Tinton Falls and become more open and transparent.

  3. MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » Layoffs At Asbury Park Press said at 8:53 am on August 4th, 2013:

    […] Fort Monmouth being closed and its operations being moved to Aberdeen, Maryland, and not for the baseless controversy he created over Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon and Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera necessary […]