While many governmental issues have found their way into the West Deptford political stream lately, the newest development comes from a lawsuit involving the township, Fulton Bank and allegedly misappropriated loan money.
The issue has current and former township officials bickering as questions about the money remain unanswered.
In a statement released this week, former township administrator and current West Deptford Democratic Party chair Gerald White contends that the lawsuit is “ a politically motivated smear campaign” targeting him.
“It’s saddening to see how toxic the government and political scene have become in the township,” White said.
West Deptford's township committee voted in September to sue Fulton Bank for approving payments beyond what the township guaranteed in relation to construction at the RiverWinds recreation complex.
White explains that such negativity is not the tone of Democratic politics, but is coming from Republican Committeeman Samuel Cianfarini. White says that Cianfarini is leading “a negative, nasty political campaign.”
In the November election, Democratic Committeewoman Denice Dicarlo and faces Republican Jeff Hansen in the race for a seat on township committee.
Bickering over a resolution
White released his statement after he received a letter from Mark Cimino, the township's redevelopment attorney, dismissing his proposed measures to resolve the issues with Fulton Bank outside court. White had asked that Steven Weinstein and Bruce Eisenberg be present at the meeting. White said he made the suggestion to provide further insight into the matter, as Weinstein served as bond counsel and redevelopment counsel to West Deptford and Eisenberg served as lead attorney in all commercial real estate transactions during that time.
“Why wouldn’t you want these two guys in a room together?” White said.
White also asked for all relevant documents to be assembled by both the township clerk and Fulton Bank, and forwarded to all participants in the meeting. Additionally, White asked for questions directed to him to be prepared ahead of time and submitted to participants. Cimino then sent a letter to White dismissing his requests as “a number of preconditions” that White “unilaterally want(s) to impose prior to even cooperating.”
“They’re not preconditions, they are reasonable, sensible suggestions to not waste taxpayers' money,” White said, adding that his proposals were solely to expedite the meeting between him and Cimino.
After sending Cimino another letter asking him to reconsider his position, White then released his statement characterizing the inquiry into the RiverWinds golf course and tennis courts loan as just another political move by Republicans led by Cianfarini. White predicted the township lawsuit will fail.
“West Deptford taxpayers won’t get one dime back from Fulton Bank, but Mr. Cimino will personally benefit greatly from this lawsuit,” White said in his statement. “That is why he refused to take the case on a contingent fee basis, insisting on getting paid by the hour.”
Response to White’s statement
In response to a Gloucester County Times article that included White’s statement, West Deptford Republican Party chair Denny Forte offered his own statement refuting many of White’s claims. Forte supports Cimino, saying he “is well-worth what he is being paid” and points to the Rivercove deal, which he says produced a $1.5 million payment to West Deptford.
“White’s prediction can be expected from someone who is doing his best to cover up years of corruption and mismanagement,” Forte said in his statement.
Cimino says he was caught off-guard by White‘s statement.
“I’m a little bit surprised, because I was authorized to move forward on this by a bipartisan unanimous vote,” Cimino said in response to accusations from White that the Fulton lawsuit was politically motivated.
Currently, there is no court date set for the lawsuit again Fulton Bank. Cimino says after a meeting with the bank, he is awaiting a response on whether representatives will begin negotiations or set a court date.
Cimino says he had only a very simple request when he wrote to White, intending to sit down one-on-one to talk about the $3.6 million of non-construction costs Fulton Bank claims is part of the township’s guarantee.
“You would think he would put the interest of the town before any interest he may have, political or otherwise,” Cimino said of White’s statement.
Cimino said he only intends to move forward in the lawsuit and is only looking for answers from White.
Click on the PDFs, above right, to view the statements and correspondence.
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