HOWELL TOWNSHIP, NJ – Election and campaign filings on record with the New Jersey Law Enforcement Commission this week show that Howell Township mayoral candidates Suzanne Brennan who is running for mayor,and Evelyn O’Donnell, a councilwoman seeking re-election accepted campaign donations from a “dark money” PAC funded by Lakewood area developers.
On September 1st, Brennan and O’Donnell received a $3,500 check from a political action committee (PAC) called “Ocean County Strong”. On the 28th of September, the two women received another check from the PAC in the amount of $2,000. The PAC is operated out of an office on County Line Road in Jackson, owned by land-use attorney Ray Shea of the firm Levin, Shea, and Pfeffer.
That firm has been instrumental in the overdevelopment of Jackson Township and has historically represented builders and developers in Jackson Township before the township’s planning and zoning boards. Many residents in Jackson credit the firm, whose partner Attorney Ray Shea once served as mayor of the town, for the rampant overdevelopment of Jackson over the past 20 years. Files of record with the NJELEC show how deep those ties really are with Lakewood area developers.
The Ocean County Stronger PAC is managed by Ian Goldman of the IM Goldman Law Firm based out of Red Bank. Adam Pfeffer, a partner in the Jackson law firm serves as the treasurer of the PAC.
The PAC has yet to report any filings in this year’s campaign cycle, but the last donations made to the PAC include Accurate Builders LLC, of Lakewood; Platinum Developers LLC of Lakewood; Mizz Construction, LLC of Lakewood; Perfect Stucco Enterprises of Lakewood and Regency Development Properties, of Lakewood. Those donations total $5,500, the same amount donated to Brennan and O’Donnell.
Other donations to the PAC include the pay-to-play engineering firm, T&M Associates, 244 Main Street Associates of Toms River, Chateau Holdings of Lakewood, Kokes Family Builders, Somerset Development LLC, Lakewood Republican Club, Congregation Sons of Israel, Re/Max on the Move Realty of Lakewood, Norman Smith esq. of Lakewood, New Lines LLC of Lakewood and Twin Oaks Consulting of Lakewood. Re/Max On the Move Realty is owned by Mordechai Eichorn, the developer behind the Jackson Trails project in Jackson Township.
The two women have so far raised $24,000, more than half of which has been provided by local dark money Political Action Committees, developers, lawyers and engineers.
Brennan and O’Donnell also accepted a $500 campaign contribution from Lakewood Zoning Board Attorney Jerry Dasti.
The pair are running for office this year against Mayor Theresa Berger and Andre DeGarmeaux. Berger is Howell’s current mayor and DeGarmeaux is a small business owner who operates the Highland Kennels. DeGarmeaux and Berger have opposed the “Howell Dump”, a recycling center supported by county and township Republicans. DeGarmeaux is also the founding member of “Howell Strong”, a group that has opposed overdevelopment in the township.
A controversial mail piece has been sent to township voters in the past few days. That piece paid for by Berger and DeGarmeaux claims O’Donnell and Brennan are pro-development.
Despite receiving money from the PAC supported mostly in part by Lakewood based developers and home builders, they refuted that accusation.
“Suzanne does not have a voting record,” O’Donnell said. “She couldn’t because she’s never been on the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, or Town Council. More deceptive tactics, more lies. They are trying to trick residents into voting against us.”
We reached to O’Donnell and Brennan for comment on the donation, but have yet to receive a response.
“How can they say they are against overdevelopment when they are taking money from developers and builders?” DeGarmeaux said today. “These developers don’t donate money unless they are expecting something in return.”