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Township Committee Approves Appeal in Fulton Bank Lawsuit

West Deptford officials give attorney Mark Cimino the green light to file an appeal following the dismissal of Fulton Bank loan lawsuit.

When it comes to the Fulton Bank lawsuit, township redevelopment attorney Mark Cimino is far from throwing in the towel. And apparently, so is the township committee, which voted unanimously to allow Cimino to file an appeal—contingent on the premise that attorney’s fees can not exceed $10,000.

The motion passed unanimously at Thursday night's township committee meeting. Committeewoman Donna Szymborski was absent. 

While the committee sailed through most of the agenda, the members entered into closed session to discuss the recently dismissed lawsuit and various issues relating to the finance department. After emerging more than an hour later, Committeeman Samuel Cianfarini motioned for the appeal, second by Deputy Mayor Sean Kilpatrick. 

“We have millions of dollars with no confirmation of what its true use was,” said Cimino. 

No clear paper trail

A lawsuit the township filed in September contended that Fulton Bank had not provided a full accounting of how about $4 million of a $10 million loan for construction at RiverWinds was spent.

“The public interest requires that they be held accountable for not knowing the actual dispensation of these funds," Cimino said, referring to Fulton Bank.  

As litigation progressed, Cimino said it was apparent that Fulton Bank had no clear paper trail for funds it distributed. Cimino explained the bank’s records consist of one sheet descriptions, but with no invoices. 

Furthermore, Cimino found that Fulton Bank had distributed funds by depositing money directly into the developer’s account at Park Bank, instead of issuing a two- or three-party check to ensure the money was used for its proper designation. 

“The bank undertook the duty of dispensing the money properly and they have no records to fully substantiate where the money went,” said Cimino. “It’s our position that they had a responsibility to handle those public funds with care.”   

Christopher Gibson, an attorney for Fulton Bank, had filed a motion to dismiss the litigation, as well as a motion to sanction Cimino for filing a “frivolous lawsuit.” Gibson cited in the motion for Cimino’s sanction that the lawsuit against Fulton Bank was politically motivated.

On Friday, Nov. 16, state Superior Court Judge Anne McDonnell dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the township was bound by the original guaranty. However, McDonnell denied both a motion to seek attorney’s fees from the township and the motion to sanction Cimino. 

At the time, Cimino stated that he disagreed with the judge’s ruling, but would have to consult with the township committee before pursuing an appeal. 

Cimino maintained late Thursday night that the township voted unanimously to allow him to file an appeal, making it a bipartisan effort.  

'Throwing good money after bad' 

Contacted late Thursday, Gibson, who did not attend the meeting, said he was "surpised and diappointed" by the township's decision to appeal. 

"I think Judge McDonnell had a tremendous amount of information and briefs from the parties. She read a contract that's fairly straightforward and has no ambiguity and cannot be construed that they have a claim," Gibson said. "I don’t see how anyone could seriously believe when you read that agreement that Judge McDonnell got it wrong.

"I think they’re throwing good money after bad, and I think it’s unfortunate for the people of West Deptford and Fulton Bank, but we’ll respond when we see their papers."

Gibson added he's confident Fulton Bank will prevail in the appeal. 

The township committee initially voted to allow Cimino to continue with litigation against Fulton Bank on Sept. 6. Cimino contended the suit could potentially recoup close to $4 million of the $10 million loan, which was intended for the development of RiverWinds. During a PowerPoint presentation at the September meeting, he cited a $1,200 disbursement for K-Swiss shoes and a $9,000 disbursement for printing and letterhead, as examples of what he believed to fall outside of the umbrella of the township’s guaranty.

For more on the Fulton Bank lawsuit, read:

  • Cimino: $4.5 Million Disappeared in RiverWinds Golf and Tennis Project
  • Democrats: RiverWinds Accusations Based on 'Thinnest of Facts'
  • West Deptford Committee OKs Court Petition on RiverWinds Loan Info
  • West Deptford Files Court Petition on RiverWinds Loan Documents
  • Former Township Official Calls RiverWinds Loan Inquiry 'Politically Motivated'
  • Judge Dismisses West Deptford's Lawsuit Against Fulton Bank

(Patch Regional Editor Tim Zatzariny Jr. contributed to this report.)

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Ryan Jordan December 07, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Another $10,000 to line Cimino's pockets. Nothing like throwing taxpayer money down the drain. How much does Cimino really contribute to your party for you to continue wasting our money when he has no chance whatsoever at recouping any money. How could the commttee be this stupid?
ChuckWagon December 07, 2012 at 02:15 PM
"Throwing good money after bad." Is that a freudian slip? I don't mind throwing good money (our money) after bad money when the big question remains; how dirty is that "bad" money? How many pockets were lined with that UNACCOUNTED FOR $4M? If it can be accounted for then ACCOUNT for it! Simple enough?
Occupant December 07, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I guess by your thinking, he's contributing to both parties as this was a bipartisan vote. Don't how much you really care about it, but I personally want to know exactly who stole our money and I want it back.
Ernest Kraus December 07, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Why would Fulton Bank make payments without proper documentation? Who at Fulton Bank is responsible for this? It seems the only frivioity in this issue are the comments by Fulton's lawyer questioning this type of poor banking and accounting practise. Is this anyway to run a bank?
Proud D December 07, 2012 at 07:02 PM
What happens when the legal fees get over $10K? Seems to me that it's not a good idea to let your opponent know that there's a limit to how much you're willing to spend.
Proud D December 07, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Just because Mark Cimino says the documentation was not proper doesn't mean that is actually the case.
Occupant December 07, 2012 at 08:30 PM
This is not just all Fulton Bank, there has to be others involved with all this shoddy paperwork. You can't keep this under wraps forever when there is a court case involved. Someone will soon start singing.
Proud D December 07, 2012 at 08:51 PM
When do you expect that to happen? This thing has already been to court and dismissed.
Tim Zatzariny Jr. (Editor) December 07, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Proud D, I imagine what will happen, if Mr. Cimino's legal fees in this case get close to $10,000, is that he'll have to adjust his hourly rate, or continue to work for free on the appeal if it isn't resolved before the $10,000 cap is reached.
Richard Geary December 07, 2012 at 09:03 PM
This has got to be the dumbest township committee ever assembled in the history of new jersey. What does it matter how Fulton Bank handles their administrative and clerical work internally. It's a private bank they can write numbers in colored chalk on the concrete to keep count if they want. There is no missing money. All of this was proven already. Yet we are going to continue throwing money away with this nimrod attorney who we have already paid over 200k for a judge to laugh at him and throw the case out without ever going to trial?? Now we have round 2 with Mark Cimino vs Chris Gibson. This will be like the fight between Tyson vs Spinks, but it could be over in less than 91 seconds. Much like Sam and Ray, CImino tries to have a battle of wits but is unarmed. Another 10k down the drain. Add that to the 40 million you handed to Sunoco and you two are having one hell of a year.
Proud D December 07, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Tim, any idea what the Township has paid Mr. Cimino to date on this matter? The numbers mentioned on here in the past have been mind blowing (over $200,000). Hopefully Patch can shed some light on whether or not they are accurate.
Occupant December 07, 2012 at 10:31 PM
"It's a private bank they can write numbers in colored chalk on the concrete to keep count if they want"....That's not true. Private or not, banks have state approved accounting practices they have to be adhered to. If this was a local mob loansharking deal I could understand. But a "Reputable" bank like Fulton? Why is Fulton stonewalling? This suit should not be happening. They should be forthcoming with their documents. This was a bipartisan decision by the committee and if you dont agree with them I hope to hear you speak up at the next township meeting.
Dominick Fiorentino December 07, 2012 at 10:36 PM
what they spent on cimino is a drop in the bucket for what the previuos admin spent and POCKETED. however when the real truth comes out and they can justify where the money went and it was inappropiated then all you naysayers can close your pie hole and move on to something else. for 20 years or more the residents had to put up with the crap the past committee doled out. now since it was unaminous maybe the victors won't be spoiled.
Wayne Klotz December 07, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Everybody wanted a change!! Well, you all got it!
Tim Zatzariny Jr. (Editor) December 08, 2012 at 07:40 AM
Proud D, we don't know the exact amount Mr. Cimino has been paid so far in regard to his representation regarding the Fulton Bank lawsuit, but we will look into it.
redneckwillie3 December 08, 2012 at 02:40 PM
while your at it Tim look into how much angelini made during his tenure,for not doing anything.
Tom Stanton December 08, 2012 at 02:49 PM
There is a need for clarification. There are those who complain that we pay legal fees to verify that the tax payer's money was spent correctly in regards to the Riverwinds project, but had no problem paying an extraordinary amount of legal fees to keep the Sunoco tax appeal unsettled for years. How much of the tax payer's money went to those lawyers? There are those who complain about spending up to $10,000 in an effort to verify that millions of tax payer's dollars was spent correctly, yet were all for a 2% raise to the township employees because they "deserve it". Can anyone shed some light on how much 2% increase in salaries will cost the tax payers of West Deptford? It certainly sounds like it is D vs. R and not what is best for West Deptford. The change that was voted for in 2011 is certainly working for the better of the township unlike the change that was voted for in 2008 for the better of the country. May I also remind you that the vote was unanimous to pursue the appeal. That means that our committeewoman with a "CPA" agreed to pursue the appeal in order to do what is best for the township as well.
David Sileo December 08, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Democrat Republican Whig Party,doesn't matter where you sit. If it is ok for the bank to just to dole out loan money like giving the guy in the next cubby coffee money, look out! There was plain and simple shoddy book keeping and for that Fulton needs to be accountable and produce and exam action. This despite judge O Donnel's ruling whose in the past has not been in the best interests of the townships residents. One comment that precedes this one says "you wanted change you have it now" to paraphrase. Well your damn right we have a committee that finally is working together for the good of the residents. You are right sit, that us change! They are 2 for 2 with great bipartisan workmanship on the Sunoco/Firetruck settlement and the initiaitve to properly settle the books in OUR money. I believe the intent here is genuine and an effort to not repeat the past and become better stewards if our assets and town. Through all of this the
David Sileo December 08, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Sorry for typos. Iphoneosis........
Proud D December 08, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Personally, I have no problem spending some money on legal fees to verify that the tax dollars were spent correctly. But, we're not talking about $10,000. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. For what? Nothing to this point. Nothing that benefits the township at least. For Sam, Ray and Denny it's gotten some juicy headlines but it's gotten nothing for the town. Not one penny. Should that change and should the town benefit from this "investigation" I will be the first to admit that it was money well spent. But until then, I see this as nothing more than an attempt to get headlines. Here's a question for everyone, how do you think Sam and Ray would have reacted if the Docimo administration paid Mike Angelini north of $200,000 to do the same work that Cimino has done? Sam's head would have exploded.
Tom Stanton December 08, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Obviously we won't know if it is money well spent until the appeal is heard in front of the court. Where there is smoke, there is fire. The question is, will the court truly hear the case, or simply just toss it away? There must have been enough information presented in the closed door meeting for the committee to vote unanimously to pursue the appeal. From what I have seen, Mrs. DiCarlo will not vote with the rest of the committee just to simply get along. As far as Mr. Angelini, he was paid for 22 years of service that many people would consider to be nothing beneficial to this town. How many years, and how many hundreds of thousands of dollars, did he get paid to do nothing for the Sunoco tax appeals? On top of all that, he is still trying to line his pockets with a pension paid for by the tax payers for his contracted work that he claims was done as an employee of the town.

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