TOMS RIVER, NJ – A new report today in the Asbury Park Press confirms that Toms River township Mayor Mo Hill, the township council and attorney Ken Fitzsimmons intentionally misled the public about the inner workings of Hill’s failed public land sale last week.
An ordinance drafted by Fitzsimmons and the Toms River Division of Law, headed by New Jersey Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin stated that only one bid was received on the property. That bid was for $318,000 according to the ordinance. At last Tuesday’s meeting Fitzsimmons said there were in fact two bids and a bidding war ensued on the property. In today’s Asbury Park Press report, Acting Business Administrator Lou Amoruso admitted that there were 50 entities that entered bids on the very attractive commercial property on Hinds Road.
The town instead, focused on Chaim Sabel, a member of the Lakewood Planning Board. McGuckin’s firm, Dasti, Murphy & McGuckin also serves as the chief legal counsel for Lakewood’s land use board.
The township at last week’s meeting claimed Sabel had buyer’s remorse. Instead of going back to one of the fifty bidders who had interest in the property, the land deal was arranged for Sabel to purchase the property for just $250,000. That price was $68,000 lower than his winning bid.
At the meeting, Toms River Councilman Matt Lotano admitted that he had a working business relationship with the auction house. McGuckin, who runs the township legal department has a business relationship with the Lakewood Land Use Board. Lotano is also a land developer. He works for Lotano Development Inc., which specializes in commercial and residential property development.
Now, the New Jersey Office of Public Integrity & Accountability is allegedly looking into the matter. A spokesperson for the state last week, when asked about a possible criminal investigation, responded refused to comment on the matter.
Peter Aseltine, spokesperson for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office responded, “No comment.”
The town had claimed the land sale was intended to raise revenue and to put the land back on the tax register. If developed, the land would generate annual revenue for the township, but why then would the township go to such great lengths to sell the property to a buyer who backed out of their high bid, then failed to produce the $10,000 deposit required to memorialize the sale?