Belmar won’t disclose where FEMA money is, Resident sues for records

Where is the $5.4 million that Matt Doherty claimed FEMA gave Belmar for Taylor Pavilion?

christie Doherty belmar

Gov Chris Christie and his favorite mayor, Matt Doherty of Belmar, on the boardwalk celebrating Sandy recovery.

The ongoing controversy over the rebuilding of the beach pavilions in Belmar has resulted in yet another law suit filed against the Borough by an activist resident calling for fiscal responsibility and transparency.

Joy DeSanctis filed suit last week against Belmar and Borough Clerk April Claudio in her capacity as Custodian of Records.  DeSanctis is not seeking money, other than her legal fees.  Rather, she is asking the Court to Order Belmar and Claudio to comply with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and provide copies of all correspondence between Belmar and FEMA regarding Superstorm Sandy Funds and correspondence regarding the construction of the pavilions between October 29, 2012 and February 5, 2016, the date that DeSanctis filed her OPRA request.

Claudio initially said that DeSantis’s OPRA request was invalid because it failed to list the “To” and “From” on the emails between Belmar and FEMA requested.  DeSanctis responded that such information was not required and was ridiculous to require, as there was no way she could possibly know who at FEMA and in the Borough were emailing each other.

Claudio finally responded to the request with only two letters between FEMA and Belmar since Sandy hit the Jersey Shore over three years ago.

A copy of DeSanctis’s law suit can be downloaded here.

Handout given by Matt Doherty and Nick DeCotis

Click photo for larger view

DeSanctis was part of the group that opposed Mayor Matt Doherty’s plans to borrow $7.1 million to rebuild the pavilions.  The group forced a referendum on the bonding which failed.  Doherty’s plans were to used Beach Utility revenue to partially fund the pavilion construction and FEMA money for the rest.  But in another lawsuit, the Court ruled that the Belmar Beach Utility funds could not be used for that purpose.

Doherty repackaged the bonding proposal, seeking to borrow $4.1 million to rebuild only one pavilion.  That bonding proposal was also forced to referendum.  The Belmar voters approved borrowing the $4.1 million last November, by 20 votes out of 1,696 cast, after Doherty told residents that FEMA gave Belmar $5.4 million and that the Taylor Pavilion costs only $4.1 million to rebuild.  Doherty insisted that Belmar taxpayers would not be on the hook to repay the bonds.

DeSanctis told MoreMonmouthMusings that she is concerned that Belmar property taxpayers will be force to pay for the overpriced pavilion long after Doherty has moved on.  She is concerned about Doherty’s fiscal mismanagement…she mentioned that the Borough bonded for 20 years for vehicle purchases and that the mayor bundled the other $3 million he wants for pavilion reconstruction with other necessary infrastructure projects.

DeSanctis said that FEMA has budgeted $2.9 million for the pavilions and is obligated to pay the Borough about $400 thousand so far. She wants the Belmar/FEMA correspondence to find out where the other $2.5 million Doherty claimed that the Borough received from FEMA is, and how it is being used.

There has been no progress on building the pavilion(s) since the referendum was passed last November, DeSantis said.

DeSanctis’s attorney,CJ Griffin of Pashman Stein said that no proceedings have yet to be scheduled in the suit.

Doherty did not return our phone call.  He also did not return our call regarding the petition opposing changes to the Borough’s Pay to Play Ordinance, “Matt’s Law.” Apparently he is turning into a kitten.  Kitten, kitten, kitten.

Posted: March 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Belmar, Monmouth County News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

8 Comments on “Belmar won’t disclose where FEMA money is, Resident sues for records”

  1. David Schneck said at 4:59 pm on March 15th, 2016:

    Art, hate to do this to you again but it’s DeSanctis, not DeSantis.

    Otherwise, great story.

  2. Word to the wise: said at 5:10 pm on March 15th, 2016:

    do NOT elect this arrogant, opportunistic guy to the Freeholder board this November!!

  3. Crazy said at 5:58 pm on March 15th, 2016:

    You can start by looking into the 1026 sq ft house that is now a 3100 sq ft house that was built by the Home By Summer on 1002 14th ave in belmar

  4. Art Gallagher said at 6:03 pm on March 15th, 2016:

    Thanks Dave, again.

    It is good to know you are reading!

  5. say what said at 6:25 pm on March 15th, 2016:

    I bet if someone would look into the Home By Summer Houses they will fine some FEMA money that was illegally spent there from Belmar.

  6. They never even said at 9:55 pm on March 15th, 2016:

    properly accounted for where the donated food gift cards all went, in Belmar, after Superstorm Sandy..

  7. Mike Seebeck said at 8:28 am on March 16th, 2016:

    Are there only two letters, emails etc between Belmar and FEMA in the three and and half years since Sandy? Will a judge locate others? Is April performing her role as the custodian of records? Belmar residents seek sunshine in the courts! Happy Sunshine Week

  8. Concerned said at 11:48 am on March 16th, 2016:

    It’s disheartening to see how FEMA money has been mismanaged all over the state, yet there are folks who are STILL not back in their homes after 3 years. This is just not acceptable. I’d start checking people’s pockets and bank accounts.