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West Deptford-Sunoco Settlement Voided By Court

Judge Eugene McCaffrey Jr. ruled the township committee violated the Open Public Meetings Act in failing to disclose the terms of the $15 million deal.

The West Deptford township committee violated the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and acted improperly by not disclosing the terms of over tax appeals at , Judge Eugene McCaffrey Jr. ruled Thursday morning, before wiping out the deal.

“The settlement with Sunoco is declared void,” McCaffrey said in his ruling in .

But while the township violated OPMA, McCaffrey said he believed it wasn’t part of a pattern of violations, or a willful or knowing violation by itself, and that no penalties or sanctions would be applied.

“At best, it was clumsy,” he said.

In effect, the judge hit the reset button on the process, and told the township committee they could pursue the settlement again, but would have to go about it more transparently than they did previously.

“You’re going to have to have a public hearing,” McCaffrey said. “I leave it to the township where to go from there.”

Before rendering his decision, McCaffrey grilled West Deptford solicitor Anthony Ogozalek Jr. and plaintiff’s attorney John Trimble Jr. on the facts of the case, and debated with Ogozalek at length about what transparency was required with respect to OPMA.

McCaffrey honed in on West Deptford’s lack of detail in the original resolution authorizing settlement, which didn’t even specify the amount—that came in a refunding bond ordinance the committee passed soon after the settlement resolution—or any other information about the settlement.

“Oddly, the township chose to do that in the submission to the Local Finance Board,” he said, noting the township told the state in that document, which is public record, that the tax appeals could’ve run anywhere from $15 million, where they settled, on up to as high as $47.5 million on just the eight years of taxes Sunoco was contesting.

“When you make that decision, that’s got to be before the public,” McCaffrey said.

Ogozalek told the judge the various pieces of the settlement—the Local Finance Board application, the bond ordinance and the settlement resolution—ultimately contained all the relevant details.

“It’s a fine line the township is walking,” he said. “They’re trying to be as open as possible.”

But McCaffrey disagreed with that notion.

“You can’t piece together compliance,” he said.

Ogozalek said the township committee was prepared to present the full details of the settlement to the public, potentially as early as tonight, as the township committee tries to determine what to do from here.

West Deptford Mayor Ray Chintall and committeeman Sam Cianfarini, who were both present for the proceeding, declined to comment on the decision.

all we need is another lawsuit April 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
nothing like a slap in the face for the township.Good idea get rid of the soliciter and get someone in that knows what they are doing.bring angelini back.you guys were supposed to save us money but with this decision sunoco will benefit with a 40 million payback instead of 15 million ,should have been open to the public.4 months in and docimo is starting to look like mayor of the decade come on guys think or your term will be up in 2 years
J. Smith April 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM
This is a sorry performance by Mayor Chintall, Committeeman Cianfarini, and the the new township solicitor for sure. Anybody that has read Patch could see this was going to be the judge's decision. Yet these three boneheads insisted on keeping from the public what the taxpayers had a right to know. Hopefully they get it now and will fully disclose the reasons for their support of the Sunoco settlement and the true cost to the taxpayers.
anthony izzo April 12, 2012 at 04:54 PM
We can whine,complain,rant & rave about ever decision that the Township administration does now or previous and it doesn't do any good. It seems as though they were told something different than what the judge seen. Now it is either poor judgement on the new soliciters part or just a lack of what the residents should have been informed. Now let's see how the coastal settlement going to be handled. Tonight excuses will being running rampant throughout the meeting.
Sayitaintso April 13, 2012 at 02:21 AM
O.K., so now will the patch tell the full, true story. This isn't what happened and the Township can proceed. To J . Smith Mr Izzo and lawsuit guy claiming how wonderful Angelini is.....seriously? We will be waiting for your apologies. PAtch, I have lost total faith in you, shame.
Bryan Littel (Editor) April 13, 2012 at 03:56 AM
No, this is exactly what happened in court Thursday morning. Let me know what we got wrong.
ThomasJefferson April 13, 2012 at 01:32 PM
" You can't piece together compliance" - Judge McCaffrey. What happened to the promises of new transparency???
Terry Holovachuk April 13, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Thanks for the above article, Bryan. As you know, because you are at the township meetings, I have repeatedly asked Mayor Chintall the very same questions that now not only CAN be disclosed but MUST be disclosed. He stared at me blankly. Mr. Ogozalek, obviously, does not know the laws as they pertain to municipal requirements. Whatever we are paying him is not justifiable considering his flawed legal advice. I also suggest that Mayor Chintall direct his Riverwinds Advisory Committee, especially "leader" Jeff Hanson (yes the Republican Committe candidate) not to base his opinions regarding OPMA compliance on our solitors's flawed legal counsel otherwise many other lawsuits may await.
keepin' it real April 13, 2012 at 02:04 PM
AND since you are all talking about OPMA, let's talk about OPRA as well, and another division in West Deptford Township, the West Deptford Township Police Department. They are notorious for VIOLATING OPRA laws. The West Deptford Township Police Department was fined $16,000 for violating OPRA. They were found guilty, and then proceeded to file an appeal again and LOST; hence, costing the taxpayers more money! Do you all know how many times they have violated and assaulted women in this township? A LOT! If you call the West Deptford Township Police to help you in anyway, BEWARE that they will violate you in some way and then they will LIE to cover up for themselves, and if you let them know that you are not happy for their actions, they will, in a heartbeat, sign a harrasment complaint against you; hence, VIOLATING YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO FREE SPEACH, because they THINK they are above you and you stoop before them. They are OUT OF CONTROL!
john saber April 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
TERRY didn't see you last night so before you open your trap no the facts before spewing your guts about certain politically events.during the course of the last group your mouth was mum and they are the ones that put this township in the hole. all you people that complain if you can do a better job step up to the plate and run for committee person or better yet MOVE TO ANOTHER TOWN. ALL YOU DO IS COMPLAIN. birds of a feather flock to g white.
Ryan Patterson April 13, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Sam, Ray, and this clueless solicitor catch another verbal beatdown this time at the hands of the bigtime republican judge Eugene McCaffrey. Great job guys!
threestooges April 13, 2012 at 03:57 PM
How fitting that the new remake of the Three Stooges is being released tonight by the motion picture industry; many in West Deptford can surmise that the remake is starring Chintall, Cianfarini, and this Ogozalek Jr character---these three stooges are trying to reinvent government and make up their own rules as they go along without having any clue whtsoever of what they are readily doing. The judge, a staunch Republican supporter himself, practically laughed these three out of his courtroom. Where is the transparency that Chintall and cianfarini promised? Thank God that this judge shutdown Sam and Ray's secret, behind-the-backs of the taxpayer's dealings that they tried to commit! Why would Sam and Ray deceive the taxpayers that they supposedly represent in favor of a Corporate giant worth BILLIONS of dollars? It is truly unreal what these two are trying to so to West Deptford. And this solicitor, how much more money is he going to cost the taxpayers for not understanding how munincipal law works? This solicitor absolutely has no clue what he is doing, did he get his law degree off of overstock.com? Oh my God, please help us as a Township, this is just another lawsuit that is costing the town thousands and thousands of dollars because of the incompetence of Sam and Ray. You can't blame Greg Ley for this one! When will the madness end? And how is the Cromwell Court lawsuit going? Amazing.
Terry Holovachuk April 13, 2012 at 11:22 PM
John Saber: Nothing in my comment required my presence at last night's meeting in order to know (not no) what I'm talking about. If you think otherwise, you do not know how to read. While reading your comment, I noticed how badly you need a refresher course in middle school English composition. Perhaps you should try that before you post again. Your phrase about my trap is laughable...it speaks volumes about your lack of class. Hmm, I thought Archie Bunker had left our midst...imagine my surprise to find he is alive and well and living in West Deptford!
ron mcdonald April 14, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I HAVE TO BUTT IN TERRY 90% OF THE TIME YOUR LIPS ARE GLUED TO THE MIKE WITH YOUR IDIOTIC STATEMENTS. WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ANYONE.OH I FORGOT YOUR A PUPPET OF G WHITE THAT EXPLAINS IT.
WDtaxpayer April 14, 2012 at 03:27 AM
All this complaining, blaming and buffoomery is just political gamemenship. Committeman's Cianfarini's analysis of the tentative Sunoco Tax Appeal settlement given on Thursday evening was excellent, factual and difficult for even the Democrats to fault. There was nothing being hidden, no smoking guns. It is the same analysis that had been made and considered before Thursday's hearing before Judge McCaffrey and the basis for the earlier agreement. It shows both a reasonable and probably the best possible settlement of the tax appeal and will likely stand as the basis for the final decision. So are we talking about what's good for the taxpayers of West Deptford or all the drama stirred up by a few top Democrats to waste time, energy and taxpayer money to delight themselves and a few other of WD's hardened Democrats ?
John Hayden April 14, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Does anybody know who appointed this judge? Anyone want to bet he was appointed by a Democrat?
Bryan Littel (Editor) April 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM
McCaffrey's political contributions indicate he's a Republican.
Ken April 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I agree the presentation was great. But why did it take a judge to get that presentation to the public? Sam admitted it was the same presentation that he showed at the closed session. There was nothing in there that would have jepardised anything had we been shown it the following week. then we would be moving on not taking a half step back. At the meeting it was apparent that blaming the prior committee for "kicking the can" may have been inacurate, as "ALL THE STARS NEEDED TO ALIGN" to make this settlement work. maybe all the previous talks were just not good enough deals, we'll never know. but lets just move on and stop the bashing.
ThomasJefferson April 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Admittedly, I was not present at the meeting, my issue isn't with the actual settlement,and whether it is a good deal or not. What is scary is that it did take a Superior Court Judge to bring it to light. MANY promises of transparency in all areas was just one of the campaign promises made by new committee. My experience in life says if they were willing to do this on day one, they will attempt to bilk the public again and that is just bad government. It has to be in the open. The judge stated;" You can't piece together compliance". This was supposed to be a NEW DAY for West Deptford Twp.
lori rogers April 14, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I have to laugh at the responses given by the few residents that plague this site with various comments.Does it really matter if the presentation was given prior to tuesday's meeting.It's only a handful of people that show up at these meetings,95% of the twonship residents could care less how it's settled.Just settle it and move on. I guess these frustrated individuals that didn't get there buddy in for office will say anything that will make the current administration look bad.However in a short period of time,they accomplished something that the democrats didn't.
Bill Bondar April 14, 2012 at 05:17 PM
We all know that there ultimately has to be a settlement. So there is no use in griping about the settlement. I've been living in this town for seven years and attending the township meetings for about five. I have never heard about any of this debt until the Republican candidates ran for office. When I attended the meetings in the past, it was over in about 30 minutes and there were more department heads present than residents. Seemed like either nobody cared what went on or they were not allowed to speak and just stayed home. Now that everyone is allowed to speak there is always a few party hacks that are told to spew venom. Don't take it out on the new committee, they didn't get us into this mess. That is why I asked if there were legal channels the township could take to investigate for possible criminal charges be bought against all parties responsible for this debt. This ain't chump change, its millions of our money. Don't let the previous administration walk away from this licking their chops from the spoils of their theft..
keepin' it real April 16, 2012 at 01:38 PM
You're right Lori, something they couldn't accomplish in 20 + years! Shame on ALL OF YOU! God will deal with you all!

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