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Sweeney Sues West Deptford Over Sunoco Settlement

The state Senate president accuses West Deptford officials of engaging in a "quid pro quo" for agreeing to settle tax appeals filed by the owners of Eagle Point refinery.

In the latest blow in the bitter battle between Republicans and Democrats in West Deptford, state Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney is suing his hometown government over a tax-appeals settlement he contends was illegal. 

Sweeney, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit in state Superior Court in Woodbury on Oct. 25. The complaint names the township, Mayor Raymond Chintall, the township committee and the owners of Eagle Point refinery as defendants. 

The lawsuit alleges that the Republican-controlled township made a $13.1 million settlement payment earlier this year to resolve years of tax appeals filed by Sunoco, owner of the shuttered refinery (the initial settlement amount was $15 million.) The township made a separate $18.5 million payment to Coastal, the former owner of the refinery, which is also named in the lawsuit. 

The Sunoco payment was in exchange for a , making it "an unawlful quid pro quo," Sweeney alleges in the lawsuit. 

The complaint was filed on Sweeney's behalf by attorney Kevin G. Walsh of the powerful and politically connected law firm Gibbons P.C. in Newark. 

(To read the complaint, click of the PDF above.)

The lawsuit contends that the settlement failed to comply with a new state law sponsored by Sweeney, which requires owners of contaminated industrial properties who receive tax settlements to place the money in escrow accounts with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help pay for environmental cleanup. 

The complaint asks a judge to declare the settlements illegal and to order the money placed in an escrow account with the DEP. 

In an interview Wednesday, Sweeney called the settlement "a bribe," and said of the current township government, "they did this for political gain, they left the site polluted with no intention of cleaning up.”

Sweeney, the state senate president, contends Sunoco proposed the donation of fire trucks to the township shortly before his legislation became law in July. 

“They knew the legislation was coming,” he said. “They knew it. I live in the town, it was all over the news.”

Sweeney said his decision to file the lawsuit had nothing to do with politics. 

“I want the money restored to the DEP and for the attorney general to look into this behavior. They have no right to say 'give me this, and I'll give you that.'”

Solicitor: no violation of the law

Chintall did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But last month, when Sweeney called for an investigation into the settlements, Chintall wrote in an email to Patch, “If he had put this amount of concern and energy into saving the Eagle Point refinery and 400 jobs over two years ago and pushed to reintroduce the S1006 (2006 bill) so as to save the town from a large tax refund, then maybe all of this would be mute."

West Deptford Solicitor Anthony Ogozalek on Wednesday declined comment on the lawsuit, citing the township's policy on pending litigation. 

Ogozalek explained previously that the state law, which Sweeney claims was violated, has two conditions in which the property must fall under. One, the property must be under a federal state remediation plan. Second, the property must be underutilized or vacant. However, there is no definition of underutilized.

Ogozalek said the tax appeal was based on the both the Cogen plant and the tank farm sections of Eagle Point. The Cogen plant is not under a federal remediation plan, so it does not fall under the statute, the attorney said. Ogozalek added that the other part of the refund, the tank farm, is neither vacant nor underutilized.

“It’s my position—or the township’s position that based on my opinion and research and the information submitted by various professionals, both technical or legal—that the Sunoco refund was not controlled by the conditions of the Senate bill,” Ogozalek said last month.

Truthnow November 16, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Amen!!! I attended the township meetings regarding the Sunoco issue. I don't recall seeing Sweeney @ those meetings. I was @ the meeting when the vote was taken to settle. Ms. DiCarlo took credit for being the vote needed to pass the settlement. She also took credit for the fire trucks! Mr. Sweeney, a.k.a. DOUBLE DIPPER, your issue is not with the settlement that the entire West Deptford committee agreed to, your issue is the fact that the Republicans have finally bought some sanity to West Deptford, and are moving this town forward!!
theresa barnett November 16, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Hell-oooooo . I know all I ever asked for was clean water and clean air ,and did I get it? No I did not but hey there's noghting new under the sun .
Truthnow November 16, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Wayne....I'm still crying that I had to work alongside you on election day. Remember me...you called me a Republican hack in the Patch forum, And, you also said that I was told to write the letter I submitted to the Patch. You don't know me very well, Wayne...no one tells me what to do or say!!! And, the funniest thing is..you asked me to come back and work with your district in the primary. Don't think so, Wayne...you see, I follow the rules I learned @ training, not Wayne's rules.
Lauren Burgoon November 16, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Comments with profanity or masked profanity will be rejected. Please see our terms of use for more info: http://westdeptford.patch.com/terms
gws November 16, 2012 at 03:05 AM
lauren you know about the incident at oakview school last week.
gws November 16, 2012 at 03:06 AM
if you do is it hush hush
Lauren Burgoon November 16, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Can you email me about it? lauren.burgoon@patch.com Thanks
Wayne Klotz November 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Maryanne, I fell the same way about you but I do follow the rules. Next time pay attention to what you are doing , the next time you work on the books because a lot of voters said you could not hear thier names the first time! Enjoy your next polling place! Maybe they will work with you! Also , be a woman and tell me to my face like you should have at the municipal bldg. but yOu are a republican!!!!
Thomas November 16, 2012 at 04:10 PM
If something was done illegaly let the chips fall and thos who broke the law pay the price
Thomas November 16, 2012 at 04:12 PM
TThis settlement was negotiated intially by Sam and then by denise and all voted for it.
Thomas November 16, 2012 at 04:14 PM
How much has the republican appointed attorney made on this township in just 9.5 months? Where are the savings we were promised???
Thomas November 16, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Well said.
Thomas November 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
If Sam, Ray anf the attorney are so confident in this law suit why did the attorney not take it on a contingency (maybe legal issue blocked by staute) The attorney is in it for himself...Not the Residents
W.D.78 November 16, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Just got back in town from LBI, now those poor people have serious problems.As I was scanning the past pages to try and get caught up on what I missed while I was away there are some things I observed. #1 can't believe Sweeney is actually sueing his own town,#2 I think backgroung checks are a great idea no matter who's idea it was to implement them,#3 I have to send congrats to Denise for her victory even though I didn't vote for her,#4 who is she taking W.Deptford back from were all residents right ?,#5I think everyone in the work force deserves a cost of living raise even if it will be used to pay fines and lawyers,#6 was there really an adult male running around one of our schools naked?,#7 who is Big Ron and what party is he with ?, And my final observation is why is patch allowing this Klotz guy to be the patch bully? Listen if you have time thoughout your day to drop to your knee's and say a little prayer for these poor people who were affected by this storm please do so because words can not decribe what these shore towns got hit with. Thanks
Truthnow November 16, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Wayne...Are you kidding me?? I won't even respond to your pathetic attempt to discredit me. And, this Republican did tell you @ the Municipal Bldg. I would not be back for the primary. There are rules to be followed by the poll workers, and, I followed the rules. Can you say the same???? I think not!! THE END!!!
Truthnow November 16, 2012 at 09:19 PM
W.d.78..Prayers have been & will continue to be said for all those people that lost so much.
Samantha McCall November 16, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Are you for real???
Samantha McCall November 16, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Big Ron, sit down, Please! What amazes me is the statement that you have made. They have a total disregard for the taxpayer, really. Sweeney and the previous administration had no regard for the taxpayer, we are in a hole, and they decided to vote themselves lifetime benefits, is that looking out for the taxpayer. Come on! These career politicians continue to have a disregard to the taxpayer, why, because we keep voting these thieves in. Wake up!
Samantha McCall November 16, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Very nice post W.D. 78.
Samantha McCall November 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Now, I must comment on Sweeney. This man is our neighbor, his family lives here, and he is suing us? This man is a street thug, bully, is too good a description. This man is is the pot calling the kettle black. As for Denice taking the fall, this is what the democratic machine does best, look at Hillary Cllinton. The Clinton's couldn't stand Obama, now they were on his campaign trail. Hillary takes one for the team for the Bengazi situation. She will be running for president in 2016. Denice I am sure has been promised something much bigger than township committee. Sweeney has to be one of the biggest corrupt politicians this state has seen in a long time. But, he shines the shoes of George Norcross, so nothing else could be expected. BTW, pay close attention to that huge higher education bond, and let's see where that money goes. I'm going to go out on a limb here, George Norcross' interests will gain most of that money.
theresa barnett November 17, 2012 at 03:41 AM
wow this was some kind of read ......sound like fear speaking ..... i understood it like this W D has a secret...the elephant is walking on thin ice and there is a bottomless pit. so will there be a foundation added so all these castles in the air can rest.i'm gone to keep good thoughts of W D in my heart good night.
Occupant November 18, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Wayne Klutz, Maryanne Leone is a friend of mine and I was pleased she decided to get involved in West Deptford. She volunteered to work the polls because good poll workers are hard to find. I would hate to see a good person leave because of someone like you. Sitting here reading the trash you talk about her and others is appalling. You sir, are a mental case and should not be anywhere near a computer. I and others here who post on the West Deptford Patch are amazed that editor, Lauren Burgoon, allows your constant bullying of bloggers to go unanswered. That issue I will take up with the CEO of Patch Media, Jon Brod at a later date. Meanwhile stop saying negative and untrue things about Maryann Leone. Your handlers are doing a disservice to the Patch bloggers and your own Democratic Party. Laurens "Role" in her job description, is to "Build a community online and get people addicted to Patch". That is being undermined by your ridiculous rantings. I would suggest you stop your threats to everyone especially Ms. Leone, Believe me when I tell you, You are playing with fire.
Samantha McCall November 18, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Everything you just said is absolutely right on target. Shame on him!!!!
Occupant November 18, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I have no idea what you are talking about....
Wayne Klotz November 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Occupant; I was. Ot threading ms. Leone! I was just stating facts! And as far as me stating must be republican, I advise you and ms leone to get your stories right!! The voter said must be republican not mr! Get you two stories right before you make statements like this! You two have a nice thanksgiving!!
Occupant November 19, 2012 at 01:21 PM
"Also , be a woman and tell me to my face like you should have at the municipal bldg. but yOu are a republican!!!!" Your words Wayne, not anybody else's.
Truthnow November 19, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Thanks, Bill. Wayne's a little confused. Wayne, why don't you tell the full context of the story behind your statement..'the voter said...she must be Republican!' I have a feeling you won't be doing that. But, if you continue this on-going attack of our Mayor & Sam, and, the Republicans, I will have no problem of posting the full.context of the story behind your statement. My suggestion to you, Wayne, is read and think before your respond. Happy Thanksgiving!
Truthnow November 19, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Wayne...in reference to your statement.. 'the voter said "must be republican"... what occurred before the voter said that???....tell the whole story Wayne..if you dare!
Occupant November 19, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Wayne boy, This has nothing what-so-ever to do with Hansen and DiCarlo. It has more to do with how you managed to become a Judge at the polls. Just who do you know? You have no business being involved with the elections. You need to an honest person willing to do the right thing by all the voters, not just Democrats. You have shown by your abrasive and bullying attitude that you are a party hack not fit to be a poll worker. You belong on a Teamsters Picket Line.
Lauren Burgoon November 19, 2012 at 05:38 PM
OK we've officially veered off topic. Comments closed.

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