Defy– openly resist or refuse to obey
In his latest campaign finance disclosure with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Belmar Mayor “Lawless Matt” Doherty did not disclose the names of donors who gave his campaign $300 or less, as required by Belmar’s Ethics and Pay to Play Law.
Before he stopped talking to MoreMonmouthMusings, shortly after he declared his candidacy for Monmouth County Freeholder in January, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty told us that his borough’s pay to play ordinance was unenforceable. Never-the-less, he pushed the Borough Council to pass a new ordinance that would allow him to take donations from people and entities who have business with or are regulated by the Borough and not to disclose donations less than $300.
The new ordinance was dubbed “Matt’s Law” because, despite Doherty’s insistence that the new law had nothing to do with his campaign for freeholder and that purpose of the relaxed ethics law was to help local Republicans, he was the obvious beneficiary. He recused himself from voting on “Matt’s Law” at the insistence of the Borough Attorney. He openly objected to the attorney’s advise, but complied anyway.
A group of Belmar citizens circulated a legal petition in opposition to the new, less restrictive ethics law. Enough signatures were collected to trigger the suspension of “Matt’s Law” and require that the matter be put to Belmar voters before it could become effective. The petition was certified by Borough Clerk April Claudio. Then the Council rejected the petition without offering any legal justification for doing so. The borough went full steam ahead as if “Matt’s Law” was in effect. The new law was codified in the Borough Code. Doherty proceeded to raise money aggressively.
The petitioners went to Monmouth County Superior Court to protest the lawless behavior of Doherty and the Council, the Clerk and the Administrator and order them to comply with the Faulkner Act, the State law that gave the petitioners the authority to petition against “Matt’s Law” and force a referendum on the matter. Judge Katie Gummer ruled that “Matt’s Law” is not in effect. Judge Gummer ordered that “Matt’s Law” be removed from the Borough Code and that a referendum be scheduled unless the Council repeals the ordinance. Claudio complied with Judge Gummer’s Order and removed “Matt’s Law” from the Borough Code. A referendum has not been scheduled, but there is still time for that. The Council has not repealed “Matt’s Law.”
But Lawless Matt is not following the Belmar pay to play ordinance. He is operating, in defiance of Judge Gummer’s Order, as if “Matt’s Law” is in effect. He is operating, as he implied that he would when we talked to him in January, as if Belmar’s Ethics Law if not enforceable.
In his NJ Election Law Enforcement disclosure dated May 9 and posted on the ELEC website yesterday, Lawless Matt disclosed that he raised $116,730 for his freeholder campaign. He collected $18,730 in donations of $300 or less, but he did not disclose who made those donations, as the Belmar ethics ordinance requires.
NJ ELEC does not require that donors who give $300 or less be disclosed. Belmar’s Ethics Ordinace does.
To give Lawless Matt the benefit of the doubt, we called his campaign treasurer, Matthew Anderson of Middletown, to ask for a list of donors who gave Doherty $300 or less. Anderson refused to answer any questions and referred us Monmouth County Democrat Chairman Vin Gopal.
Gopal said “We are following all state rules, regulations and laws by New Jersey and ELEC.” What about the local Belmar ordinance, we asked. “I have no comment on that,” Gopal said and repeated, “We are following all state rules, regulations and laws by New Jersey and ELEC.”
Asked if he considers Judge Gummer’s Order to be a state rule or law, Gopal said, “You have my answer.”