West Deptford Sued Over Possible OPMA Violations

A resident has filed a complaint in Superior Court over January and March closed-session meetings in a bid to stop a $15 million property tax settlement.

A West Deptford resident has filed suit against the township committee in Superior Court over closed-session about , including a January closed-session meeting with Sunoco officials, that allegedly violated the state Sunshine Law, in a bid to prevent the $15 million settlement from advancing.

Gary Kuehnapfel filed the suit Tuesday via his attorney, John W. Trimble Jr., of Turnersville-based Trimble & Armano, alleging the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) violations, .

“I am fed up with the public's business being conducted behind closed doors,” Kuehnapfel said in a release from his attorney's office. “The tax appeal litigation is too important to West Deptford's taxpayers to be settled without transparency to the public.”

Kuehnapfel's suit seeks to void the settlement with Sunoco and prohibit any further action by the township committee, as well as prevent the state's Local Finance Board from further action on the settlement. It also asks for a court-appointed monitor to prevent further OPMA violations.

The violations were first brought to light by former Mayor Len Daws, who brought them up during a recent public session of the committee.

Minutes from that January meeting, though redacted, show three Sunoco representatives, including two direct employees of the corporation, had discussions with the township committee during the closed session.

Attorney Jeff Gordon, of Archer & Greiner, and two employees from Sunoco’s tax divison—Rich Booker, director of tax controversy and state tax planning and Robert Dietz, vice-president of tax—were involved in the closed-session portion of the meeting, which, according to the minutes, involved both an overview of each side’s position and a back-and-forth question-and-answer session.

Walter Luers, an attorney with the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, agreed with Daws about the committee pushing the boundaries of a closed session by bringing in Sunoco officials.

“This is a blatant, open and obvious violation of the Open Public Meetings Act,” Luers told Daws in an email.

West Deptford officials said earlier they believed they were working within the bounds of the state Sunshine Law during the closed session.

Check back with Patch for more on this story as it develops.

Michael Matlock March 08, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Chintall signed a resolution regarding the settlement so disclose the terms of the settlement to the residents. This is outrageous. This is outright corruption by this new republican administration. They should be thrown in jail. How can they settle in two months when they have no clue what is going . And I'm already hearing about another lawsuit coming next week.
fred flintstone March 08, 2012 at 03:54 PM
MICHAEL you have to let go of docimo's apron string and realize by draggingt his on it's costing the taxpayers money every day. of course after may i'll be moving to an area that doesn't have this nonsense. I hope you get what you wish for increase in your taxes and more agony from the rep. keep up the good work C & C .you're doing your job you got the dems at your fingertips. one more thing matlock you're living proof that the three stooge's had kids
Bill Bondar March 08, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I posted the first post on this subject this morning. I questioned the motive for this lawsuit. It has been now been deleted. Who is at the controls?
Bryan Littel March 08, 2012 at 10:42 PM
If you're referring to your comment on the other article, it got flagged off, but it's back.
Barry Goldwater March 08, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Sam, you can try to deflect under your multiple screen names all you want but you guys continue to make amateur mistakes and are costing the taxpayers millions of dollars. Do you guys really expect the residents to believe you went through 7 years of litigation in one month and decided to settle for $15 million dollars. This doesnt pass the smell test. This is what happens when you have the likes of Chintall, Cianfarini, Umba, and Matlosz calling the shots and WD is in big time trouble. I expect many more lawsuits as the year continues.


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