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Democrats, Republicans Wrangle Over Value of Eagle Point

The Democrats say the complex is severely undervalued in the current settlement, while the Republicans say they've gotten more than what a judge might say is the value.

West Deptford Democrats added fuel to the fire in the debate over whether the settlements with Sunoco and Coastal/El Paso over longstanding property tax disputes over the are a fair deal, citing a difference of more than $2.5 billion dollars in the appraised worth of the property and what the settlement spells out as its value.

And that’s just for the Sunoco years.

The Democrats released the appraisal figures, which they said they had to acquire via an Open Public Record Act filing, as part of a letter mailed out to township residents—the same figures are below—which attacked the Republicans for what Committeewomen Denice DiCarlo and Donna Szymborski called a rushed deal.

While the property tax refund agreed to in the settlement is close to what the two Democrats said would be acceptable, they said the low-balled property value and the $2.55 million tax bill it brings for Sunoco—a figure DiCarlo said Sunoco floated to get the assessment where it wanted—is a bad move in the long term.

“That’s just leaving a lot of money on the table,” DiCarlo said.

While DiCarlo said she has no desire to see either the Sunoco or Coastal/El Paso cases end up in court, she said more work is left to get the settlements to the point where they’re the best deal.

“I think there’s a way we can make this happen,” she said. “We have to fight harder for the taxpayers—this is a lot of money.”

The Coastal/El Paso settlement, which the Democrats said had effectively been rammed through on the back of the Sunoco deal, presents its own set of challenges, not least because of the lack of supporting documentation, DiCarlo said.

While Sunoco’s challenge to their property taxes involved an encyclopedic case folder the size of a Manhattan phone book, the Coastal/El Paso documentation added up to a few spreadsheets on four pieces of paper.

“I just don’t know how you get there,” she said.

Besides the value of the two settlements, DiCarlo criticized the way the Republicans have structured the financing to try to minimize the up-front tax hit, which she said could add between $2 and $3 million to the cost of the deal because it’s such a long-term debt.

"They just want to look at tax impact," DiCarlo said.

The two Democrats were joined in their criticism by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who weighed in the deal via a letter to the editor published in the Gloucester County Times, which savaged the Republicans’ move to settle.

“A decision to refund $32 million to oil companies that have turned their backs on West Deptford should involve all key stakeholders, not just a rookie mayor and committeeman going up against seasoned corporate experts at tax negotiations,” Sweeney wrote. “I am sorry to say that (Ray) Chintall and (Sam) Cianfarini allowed West Deptford taxpayers to have their pockets picked in a big way.”

But the Republicans slammed the release of what they claimed was privileged information, while at the same time defending the settlement.

In a letter released at the end of last week, Mayor Ray Chintall, Deputy Mayor Sean Kilpatrick and Committeeman Sam Cianfarini claimed the appraisal values are sensitive information that potentially damages the township’s legal strategy, should the matters end up in court

“This is not in the best interest of the people of West Deptford,” they wrote.

And while the appraisals show a much higher value than the settlement, the Republicans said those values don’t reflect the reality of the situation, and cited tax court Judge Joseph C. Small’s assertion that prior sale prices could determine the value of the refinery.

With that in mind, the Republicans pointed to the fact that the settlement establishes values for Eagle Point well above its 2004 sale price of $111 million.

Republican township committee candidate Jeff Hansen, meanwhile, called into question combined donations totaling more than $30,000 to the Democrats from the two firms representing both sides in the case—Archer and Greiner, which has represented Sunoco in the appeals, and Nowell Amoroso Klein Bierman, which represents the township.

Hansen suggested the Democrats have an interest in stretching out the appeals, given there are potentially donations rolling in from the two groups of attorneys as long as it continues—Archer and Greiner donated last year, part of a massive fundraising effort by the Democrats, though David Nowell’s last donation to the Democratic executive committee came in October 2010, according to reports filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

“It’s a big conflict of interest,” Hansen said.

But DiCarlo dismissed that idea, noting her campaign received no money directly from Nowell Amoroso Klein Bierman, and questioned whether that presented a double standard.

“If it’s a conflict of interest, does that mean (the Republicans) can’t work with the insurance brokers?” she said.

Beyond just the contributions, DiCarlo noted her dissatisfaction with the special counsel for tax appeals from Nowell Amoroso Klein Bierman.

“I’ve made it very clear that I don’t think John Lloyd’s been doing a great job,” she said.

Appraised value (millions) Settlement value (millions) Difference (millions) 2004 $225 $134 $91 2005 $300 $134 $166 2006 $530 $128 $402 2007 $700 $126 $574 2008 $770 $121 $649 2009 $575 $122 $453 2010 $375 $124 $251 Total $3,475 $889 $2,586
canodit May 21, 2012 at 01:02 PM
It seems like the campaign slogan for Jeff Hansen will be "DO AS WE SAY, NOT AS WE DO." More deception, more double talk, and more double standards from the WD GOP. I was at a meeting when Hansen tried to use the open mic as a campaign platform. Too bad he had to distort the facts in order to stumble through his prepared talking points. He is lucky that as a speaker during the public portion of Committee meetings, he isn't held to his statements or made to present grounds or backup his assertions. (When asked by Committeewoman Dicarlo to backup his statements, he told her that she could look it up if she wanted). Meanwhile, Cianfarini continually uses his position to give glowing approvals of the professionals he and Chintall hired, several of whom made contributions to their campaign in 2011. Are those glowing approvals and power-points just free advertising for loyal GOP contributors?
J. Smith May 21, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Cianfarini needs to explain the huge gap between the value determined by the township's appraisal expert and the tax settlement he recommended. Why did Dicarlo have to fight to get the township's own expert reports? Now that the public is aware how lopsided this deal is in favor of the refinery, it becomes clear why Chintall and Cianfarini don't want the taxpayers to know the facts. Looks like average taxpayer is going to get screwed by this stupid deal.
sweeney hater May 21, 2012 at 02:56 PM
as long as the republicans are pissing off the dems lovin every minute of it keep shoving it down their thoats ray & sam.these people rather see high taxes than lower taxes 3 years of pissing off the dems what glory.
Ernest Kraus May 21, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Perhaps I missed it since I have not attended all township sommittee meetings since Ms. Szymborski was elected so can anyone find when she voted against the party line under the previous administration? Ms. DiCarlo states she did not receive any money directly. From whence came the $100,000 plus that was spent in her loosing campaign? With a previous sale price of $111 million, how does an accessor access for a higher amount? Perhaps Ms. DiCarlo, Ms. Szymborski and Senator Sweeny should start reading the Wall Street Journal and seeing what is happening around the country with tax appeals by refineries. The only winners in this situation are the law firms with a ticking billing clock; the same firms that contibute to the county GOP.
WDNeedsHelp May 21, 2012 at 04:50 PM
"But DiCarlo dismissed that idea, noting her campaign received no money directly from Nowell Amoroso Klein Bierman, and questioned whether that presented a double standard." This is a lie. Dicarlo's letter came directly from the County Democrats, who still take money from those firms. This folks is called "money laundering" and the Dems are masters of it. Let's also look at Dicarlos employer, Comcast, which donated to Steve Sweeney's last election, how cozy. Look it up for yourself: http://www.elec.state.nj.us/ELECReport/StandardSearch.aspx I would also like to see the work Mr Sweeney has done on this 24 year old case. Where is Sweeney's solution for the problem his town faces??? The WDGOP has had a mear 4 months to work on it and they have a solution in hand, Where's yours Steve? Too busy lining your pockets with taxpayers dollars to actually do your job, freeloader...
Bryan Littel (Editor) May 21, 2012 at 05:17 PM
The copy of the letter I have says it's the local Democrats, not the county who paid for its distribution. And technically, DiCarlo's correct - if you look at the contributions directly to her campaign last year, Nowell Amoroso Klein Bierman isn't in there.
J. Smith May 21, 2012 at 07:09 PM
As a taxpayer, I care about where my money is going (to the oil companies!) not where the politicians get their campaign funds. Republicans and Democrats raise campaign funds the same way. This is a distraction from the real issue.I want to hear the reasons why Committeeman Cianfarini thinks this is the best deal when the settlement is so much lower than the value placed on the refinery by the TOWNSHIP'S OWN EXPERT APPRAISER!
leon gidzinski May 21, 2012 at 09:10 PM
WHAT IS THE BEST DEAL. as long as our taxes don't go up get it over 20+ years this been going on and nobody said nothing till now that they a solution.are you people ever gonna be happy.being a former employee of coastal and sunoco i was fortunate enough to transfer to the philly facility.The former ceo knew exactly what she wanted to do as soon as she took over the helm. Now it's just a wait to see what happens in the next few months with this carlyle group if they are going to buy or merge.I remember the settlement with coastal 9 million + because the democrats over accessed the value. get it over and done move on,just can't believe how people think. and if you don't want your taxes to go as well as property values going down know sympaty for the ones that are against the settlement. and if that's the case I hope the taxes go sky high in this township that you won't know where your next meal's coming from
ThomasJefferson May 22, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Well, since the finance board has postponed the hearing for the Bonding of the 34 mil, why don't we all take a look at the numbers and see if there isn't a better deal for the taxpayers of WD. It would seem the rush to complete the deal may be in the hope that the voters will not see the impact on their taxes, before November. What is the rush, there is time to review this. Mr. Kraus, most of the working class 99% aren't interested in the Wall Street Journal, or Rupert Murdoch's take on anything, he is a criminal. We are interested in maintaining our community shcools and services. If this isn't the best possible deal for WD, guaranteed, then it should not move forward.
zac gordan May 22, 2012 at 09:57 AM
let's be realistic give sunoco what they settled for before sunoco decides if we wait any longer we'll go to court and get what we really wanted in the first place 90 mil. and then people will be saying GEE they should have settleed for 30 mil instead of waiting .I guess people just don't know what they want. there are 20,000 residents in this town a handful come on here voice their opinion and that's about it and you know what opinions are like a-holes cause everyone has one MOVE ON CREATE SOMETHING NEW TO WHINE AND GRIPE ABOUT.
WDNeedsHelp May 22, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Correct Bryan, the money was laundered through the WDDEC and the County Dems and then re-donated to her and Hunter.... Please, don't cater to their games and pretend they are squeeky clean. No comment on Dicarlos employer donating to Sweeney? No comment on ALL the prior legal, engineering and consulting firms that were employed by WD that DIRECTLY donated to her and Hunter last year to the tune of thousands of dollars. I believe Angelini's firm was billing the town tens of thousands of dollars a month and made a HUGE donation to Dicarlo and Kintzing. Check the site for all the details http://www.elec.state.nj.us/ELECReport/StandardSearch.aspx
WDNeedsHelp May 22, 2012 at 07:31 PM
It's called the County Dems trying to pad all the spending they do. Google the County agencies and look at the contact pages. Almost EVERYONE of them is related to some other offical or family of an offical somewhere else in the County. It's nothing more than theft through payroll and pensions....Easiest way to get more money, increase all the assessments on all the business that moving would be a huge expense to. Sunoco simply called their bluff and took their marbles and went home. Sorry, but the County Dems, Steve Sweeney and former Mayors Docimo and Shields carry all this blame, that's who REALLY screwed you my friend.
WDNeedsHelp May 22, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Ernest, I believe you ment to say " the same firms that contibute to the county Dems." not the GOP as they do not recieve donations from them.
WDNeedsHelp May 22, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Please visit www.wdgop.com or www.wdtruth.com and watch the presentation that was given.
WDNeedsHelp May 22, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Agreed, but if it does go to court and we lose (which we will) then the blame will squarely be on the backs of Dicarlo and Symborski, I really hope they think long and hard about pissing off 20K people and trying to remain in the town after that.....I know I wouldn't...
Bryan Littel (Editor) May 22, 2012 at 07:37 PM
If you'll remember, I'm the one who broke the story about their donations from professionals right before the election last year: http://westdeptford.patch.com/articles/township-professionals-donations-at-issue-in-west-deptford-committee-race That speaks for itself. As for Comcast, they've dumped tons of money into Assembly and Senate campaigns throughout the state. Sweeney's hardly alone in that regard - and has gotten significantly less than some other candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike.
ThomasJefferson May 22, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Are you willing to risk it all the the settlement is fair? No matter how long it has gone on, they should not get more than they deserve. To say that the only legit value is the sale price 8 years ago is not valid. That is why there are assessments to make sure everyone pays their fair share regardless of fluctuating markets. THe gap in the numbers is no small amount. Why not investigate i the value discrepancy. To say , " well those guys really screwed up, at least this is better" is not the answer and is really unacceptable.
ThomasJefferson May 22, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Further: The name calling and campaign contribution battle cry is getting old. The new solicitor's firm has a record of donating to campaigns, mostly GOP as well, should every donor be eliminated from goverment employment opportunities. That would leave very few choices. and as long as people accept the "corporations are People" theory, this will never change., Alll political parties take contributions from large corporations.
Ernest Kraus June 01, 2012 at 06:26 PM
WD Mary: I did not sugest that you and the other 99% read the Wall Street Journal. I suggested it to Ms. Di Carlo, employed by Comcast in a financial position and to Ms Szymborski, employed by Wells Fargo Bank. I also suggested it to Senator Sweeny who had his name mentioned in an editorial and had not seen it. I had to drop a copy at his office. These are people that should be reading financial papers. As far as the value of the refinery and what was paid in the previous sale, it is a negotiated price between a willing buyer and a willing seller. One would also expectthat the buyer would know the value and would not pay more then what it is worth. This is far different from an accessor that puts a price on all things. I'm not sure how one can acqurately value houses, gas stations, shopping centers and refineries. One last thing to the nay sayers; have the integrity to put ypour name on what you write.

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