This is what Democratic candidates for Monmouth County Freeholder Larry Luttrell and Joe Grillo have been campaigning on for months, this editorial collaborates what they have been saying all along and is important for their campaign. The good ol' boy network that has been running the County for years needs to be stopped and ethical behavior by those we elect needs to be reinstated.
From the APP:
Former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas was convicted last week of falsifying tax returns and fraudulently obtaining funds to purchase a piece of property that netted him nearly $1.2 million in farmland preservation taxpayer money.
The convictions, for wire fraud, loan application fraud, making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service, aggravated identity theft, obstruction of a grand jury investigation and falsification could land him in jail for decades when he is sentenced in January.
While officials at the county and local level were quick to distance themselves from Lucas, the whole fiasco could have been avoided if the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders had long ago barred elected and appointed officials from participating in the farmland preservation program. In classic “closing the barn door after the horses have left” fashion, the freeholders did not get around to that until April.
The farmland preservation funding Lucas received for his 97-acre Diamond Developers at Burke Farm sparked controversy as some politicians rightly insisted he should not have applied for the money while he was a sitting officeholder in Manalapan.
After purchasing the farm, Lucas applied for and received $694,800 from the state’s Farmland Preservation Program, $277,920 from Monmouth County’s open space fund, and $185,280 from Manalapan. Under the deal, Lucas was allowed to keep the farm but gave up any right to develop 96 of its 97 acres. While Lucas faces jail, Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry, who championed the deal from the beginning, now finds herself backpedaling at breakneck speed.
Burry said last week that the “guilty verdict against Andrew Lucas ... has nothing to do with the freeholders, the county or the farmland preservation program.” Lucas, she said, stands alone in that it was he who falsified the tax returns and fraudulently obtained funds to purchase the property.
Burry was not alone in acting as cheerleader for the deal. Manalapan Mayor Jordan Maskowitz and Committeewoman Susan Cohen also supported it from the beginning.
We are not buying Burry’s self-absolution....