Flemming recuses self over conflict of interest with developer of proposed religious school application

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Jackson Township Councilman Marty Flemming. Photo Campaign for Flemming/Kern/Oneill

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Jackson Township Council President Marty Flemming, who also serves on the Jackson Township Planning Board, recused himself from a controversial development application, citing a personal conflict of interest ahead of the hearing for an application to build four private schools.

Before the hearing began, Flemming interrupted to notify the board that he would be refusing himself from the hearing and abruptly left the meeting room.

The applicant, Bellvue Estates LLC, is seeking to build four private schools along Leesville Road. The project is owned by Mordechai Eichorn, who is also the developer of Jackson Trails. Earlier this year, it was made known that Flemming approached Eichorn to offer him an opportunity to build a large residential development on the Leesville property owned by Bellvue Estates, LLC.

Township code would have allowed Eichorn to build just 10 houses on the property, but Flemming suggested a plan to allow the Lakewood-based realtor to build 60 homes instead of the four schools.

Eichorn was reluctant to change his plan to build a school, but said he would listen to what Flemming was offering. The two allegedly met in private to discuss the proposal.

“Economically, I’d do better with the schools,” Eichorn said of Flemming’s proposal said. “But if I can go out of my way and show I’m a man of compromise, that I’m not this greedy developer, I’ll do everyone the favor.”

Eichorn held up his school application in order to see if Flemming could make good on his offer to allow the 60 homes to be built instead. It turns out, Flemming was unable to sway his peers on the planning board.

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In the end, the planning board rejected Flemming’s offer to build houses, and last night, Bellvue Estates came before the board to move forward on the plan to build the schools.

Fleming did not say why he recused himself, but according to New Jersey state ethics laws, local zoning and planning board officials have an obligation to act ethically to avoid conflicts of interest while discharging their public duties.

According to the law firm of FarrelFritz,

“Conflicts of interest can arise where competing goals make it difficult for government officials to make decisions that protect the common good. Where conflicts of interest exist, board members should disclose the conflicts and determine whether they can fairly make decisions on the issues before the board,” the firm states.

Failure to recuse oneself could end up with a board decision being reversed or nullified if a conflict of interest claim was challenged.

At this time, it is unknown what Flemming’s relationship with Eichorn is or why he recused himself. Flemming did not disclose his conflict of interest at the public meeting.

Flemming is running for Mayor of Jackson and sources within the Jackson GOP said Flemming has been courting members of the Orthodox Jewish community for political support. It is unknown whether Flemming has had political discussions or affiliation with Eichorn.

In refusing himself from the hearing, Flemming will now be ineligible to vote on the pending application.

You can watch the video below.