The Mayor and Council of Belmar has introduced an ordinance that would remove the current restrictions on the Borough’s liquor license holders, real estate developers, professionals and vendors from contributing to the campaigns of Borough elected officials seeking higher office.
Mayor Matt Doherty told MoreMonmouthMusings that the ordinance has nothing to do with his candidacy for Monmouth County Freeholder.
Doherty announced that he is seeking the Democrat nomination for Freeholder on January 15. The ordinance was introduced on January 19 and is on the agenda for a public hearing and final vote at the Borough Council meeting tonight. Doherty said it will be tabled and another version will be introduced at tonight’s meeting.
“We started discussing these changes last August because the Republican candidate for Council did not have local party support and was having trouble raising money for his campaign,” Doherty said. “The current ordinance prohibits contributions from PACs and the Republican candidate could not accept contributions from Assemblyman Dave Rible or the County GOP. We’re trying to make it easier for both Republican and Democrat candidates in Belmar to raise money for their campaigns.”
Belmar’s current pay to play and conflicts of interest ordinance prohibits liquor license holders from making political contributions to Borough candidates, County candidates and pass through contributions to Partys or PACS. Real estate developers, professionals and vendors are prohibited from donating more than $300. If an elected official accepts a contribution of more than $300 from one of those entities, that official is barred from taking official action involving the contributor. If the new ordinance, as proposed, passes, Doherty would be able to accept larger contributions and continue to act as mayor on matters concerning his contributors.
“The current law in unenforceable,” Doherty said, “we’re just bringing it up to date.” He said that the changes to the proposed ordinance which require a new introduction will involve contributions by liquor license holders.
Former Mayor Ken Pringle, a Democrat and the longest serving mayor in Belmar history, presided over the governing body that passed the current ordinance in 2004 and amended it to make it more restrictive in 2005. Pringle said that the proposed changes are “bad for the citizens of Belmar.”
Pringle said that Doherty and the Council “are trying to hide the nature of these changes” from the citizens of Belmar because they have not highlighted the changes in the new ordinance, as is customary. Rather, the Borough released the new language without noting the changes.
“Ken Pringle is like a jaded ex-girlfriend who will not go away,” Doherty said.