Petition filed to repeal “Matt’s Law”; Belmar’s loosened pay to play ordinance

Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty

Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty

The Committee of Petitioners to repeal Belmar’s recently passed Ethics Ordinance that would allow Borough elected officials seeking higher office to accept campaign contributions from town vendors, developers, professionals and liquor licensees and accept anonymous contributions under $300 submitted 326 signatures to Borough Clerk April Claudio today, according to Committee Member Katrina Clapsis.

Claudio confirmed the receipt of the petition.

Dubbed “Matt’s Law” by locals because the timing of the Ordinance’s introduction and passage coincided with Mayor Matt Doherty’s announcement that he is running for Monmouth County Freeholder, the measure is now subject to repeal by the Borough Council or a referendum within 40-90 days of the signatures being certified by Claudio. 61 more signatures than need to force a repeal or referendum were submitted, according to Clapsis.

Claudio has 10 days to certify the petition and the Committee has 10 days to submit an amended petition if necessary.

The Committee of Independent and Democrat voters, Thomas Fahy, Linda Chelsen, Linda Sharkus, Katrina Clapsis, and former Mayor Kenneth Pringle announced their effort to repeal “Matt’s Law” on Common Sense for Belmar on February 28 with the following statement:

To the people of Belmar:

The recent guilty pleas by former Birdsall executives serve as a reminder that the purchase of political influence by outside interests continues to be a problem that taxpayers must vigilantly protect themselves against. We signers of this letter (all of us are either political independents or registered Democrats) have been grateful that Belmar has enjoyed having very strict pay to play ordinances on the books that we believe have served us well and greatly reduced the likelihood of such improprieties occurring here.

Unfortunately, on February 16 the Borough Council voted to remove from our conflict of interest ordinance some of our most important protections, opening the door to pass-through contributions that conceal the identity of the actual donor, contributions from vendors and professionals who may be looking to win contracts from the Borough, contributions from contractors seeking change orders on bid contracts, and contributions from holders of liquor licenses who might like to see a more compliant Borough Council (which acts as the local ABC board.)

The revised ordinance also, very importantly, removes all donation restrictions on Belmar elected officials who may be running for another office outside of Belmar. We feel our public officials should not be accepting money from anyone with business before the Council irrespective of the office that person might be running for.

We will be circulating a petition to protest these detrimental changes to our campaign finance laws and ask all registered voters of Belmar to join our cause and sign the petition.

Please call 732-409-0138 or email [email protected] and ask to sign the petition.  With your help we can restore these important protections for the taxpayers of Belmar.

Clapsis said that collecting the signatures was easy and that Borough residents were enthused to repeal the Ordinance. Doherty did not return a call for comment.

Posted: March 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Belmar, Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, Matt Doherty, Monmouth County News | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

7 Comments on “Petition filed to repeal “Matt’s Law”; Belmar’s loosened pay to play ordinance”

  1. Still no appology from Thomas Brennan? said at 5:47 pm on March 7th, 2016:

    The peanut gallery wants to know: When will Thomas Brennan apologize to Art? (http://www.moremonmouthmusings.net/2016/03/03/belmar-residents-seek-to-repeal-loosened-ethics-laws/#comments )

    I assume this Thomas Brennan is that same snarky Thomas Brennan asking Art to “get his facts straight”?

  2. David Schneck said at 6:57 pm on March 7th, 2016:

    Just a heads up Art Katrina’s last name is misspelled in a couple of spots. It’s Clapsis, not Clapis. Otherwise great story.

  3. Art Gallagher said at 7:09 pm on March 7th, 2016:

    Thanks, David. Apologies to Katrina

  4. Let's keep in mind said at 11:26 pm on March 7th, 2016:

    Doherty is hell- bent on doing whatever he can to move up to freeholder.. Check all the St Pat’s parade photos on nj.com: all the Dems running got free photo coverage: Hope the Monmouth GOP, which revived the practice of sponsoring a float this year for visibility, insists on some press/ coverage: it was blatantly,unfairly in favor of all the big- shot Dems, again.

  5. Me said at 12:23 am on March 8th, 2016:

    Belmar politicians are sleazy.

  6. Thomas Brennan said at 12:30 am on March 9th, 2016:

    Hey Art, I said “please.” How is that snarky? Compared to some of the vitriol I’m reading here, it’s positively polite. Seriously, I believe we disagree in the reading of the ordinance. In comparing the old ordinance with the revised one, the reporting requirements are essentially the same. The concern seems to me to be that a Belmar elected official running for a higher office, Freeholder, for example, can take a campaign contribution from one of the defined areas of conflict, like major developer, then LOSE the election, remain in office in Belmar and somehow be beholding to that contributor. The ordinance is clear, however, that “Belmar campaign contribution” also applies to a holder of office in Belmar. Said candidate in that situation would be prohibited from voting on anything involving that contributor. Personally, I think it would be stupid to take such a contribution, not if being able to actually vote on things is important to you.

  7. Mike Seebeck said at 8:21 am on March 9th, 2016:

    Good morning Tom the petition is in. Soon April will certify and you will have to decide. Honestly not many of us believe you will put the residents before the mayor so we’re jonesing for the opportunity to vote. Votes and lawsuits are the only lines of communication for the residents and we have not done badly. Count on us showing up for this one! I just got off the phone with someone who is angry they didn’t sign the petition, “thought they had more time”. As far as Matt for Freeholder he can resign, raise millions and fulfill his political ambitions. So what’s it gonna be Tom? Thanks for the article Art