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With No Evidence Yet, Republicans Press on RiverWinds Loan

Republican officials continue to press for answers about how $4.5 million out of a $10 million loan to build the golf course and tennis center was spent.

With no answers nearly two weeks after West Deptford’s redevelopment counsel claimed there was —an assertion Democrats have said holds no water—Republican officials are ramping up the rhetoric as they press for concrete answers.

West Deptford Republican Chair Dennis Forte called the Democrats’ dismissal of the idea the money is missing—former township administrator Gerald White called the claim ""—nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

“The bottom line is those dollars are unaccounted for,” Forte said.

With neither side able to produce hard evidence of how a total of nearly $10 million was spent in building the golf course and tennis center, Forte said the onus is on the Democrats and White to account for the money, which White has said was detailed during the construction process.

Raising the question of where that money went, given the difference in the loan amount and what closing documents said would be the cost of the course and tennis center, was a necessary step, Forte said.

“If there was documentation, there wouldn’t be any questions,” he said.

He went on to say White and the former Democratic administration that watched over the project should’ve done more themselves to document how money was spent on the project, given West Deptford guaranteed the loan—and ultimately ended up on the hook to pay it back, when Namwest, the overall developer for RiverWinds, went bankrupt.

“The township was responsible for the oversight,” Forte said.

While Forte and redevelopment counsel Mark Cimino—who said Tuesday he’s seeing signs of more cooperation from Fulton Bank, which granted the loan—have been careful about speculating about the allegedly missing money, the Democrats have said the claim the money is somehow unaccounted for amounts to a tacit accusation aimed at the developers who built the project.

Those developers, Arret and Emory Dobson, have stayed quiet so far. Arret Dobson declined to speak about the allegations, saying he and his attorney were waiting for documents related to the loan before saying anything.

And Forte dismissed the notion that the presentation was put together as a deflection from , news of which broke the day before Cimino’s announcement at a township committee meeting.

“That is absolute garbage,” Forte said, referring to it as “a bogus lawsuit.”

Beyond the concerns over the loan, Forte said the apparently lack of a formal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, despite the long-term lease with Ron Jaworski Golf Management detailing such a deal, is a concern being lost in the shuffle.

“There’s obviously agreements that should be in place that have not been demonstrated,” Forte said.

Without a formally-adopted PILOT program for the property, Cimino argued Jaworski could be responsible for the actual taxes on the course and tennis center, which would come to $386,000 per year, versus the PILOT program spelled out in the lease agreement, which maxes out at $63,531 after 15 years.

It all amounts to a lot of questions about a lot of dollars, Forte said.

“It’s only a matter of time before more taxpayers start getting involved,” he said.

J. Smith June 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Brian's headline says it all:" With no evidence yet, Republicans press on loan." They have every right to disagree, but no right to smear people by alleging theft. As a lawyer, Cimino knows better but is just doing Cianfarini's hatchet work. It's disgusting.
TTT.Smith June 28, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Tell me J. Smith, where did anyone allege theft. Please think for yourself and not how Jerry White tells you to think or act. No where did the republicans or Cimino ever say or allege theft. Stop the BS and show us the money, plan and simple.
redneckwillie3 June 28, 2012 at 01:16 PM
in due time the money will become visible and the democrats will be scurrying out of town.the question still remains show the residents where did the money go plain and simple.july 5th meeting beware dems the truth shall set you free. J Smith you should think before you write no allegation has been made. if the previous administration pocketed the money is that considered fraud against the taxpayers of this town. this could get really interesting
WDNeedsHelp June 28, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Did some research, to build a "high-end" golf course with a full featured club house today runs between 5.5 and 6 million dollars. This price also includes the purchase of the land to develop it on. Riverwinds is a "mid-range" course at best and has no clubhouse. In addition the land for the project was already owned by the WD taxpayers. So my questions are why was there a 10 million dollar loan for this project? Who approved to put the Taxpayers of this town on the hook for that money? Why did a "midrange" course built 10 years ago on land owned by the Taxpayers and did not include a clubhouse cost DOUBLE what it would take to build a nicer facility today. If that doesn't warrant a look at by the State Attorney General, of the Feds for that matter, then we are all royally screwed.
WDNeedsHelp June 28, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Please, you embarrass yourself.
J F Rando June 28, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I've said it before - Mr. White had an obligation to follow the funds flow. WD was on the hook when they guaranteed the loan. Mr White it is unreal how WD Twp was run during your tenure no viable General Ledger or accounting system. Also, Mr Weinstein said that a discrepancy did not exist during his time. What happened to the data? Did it evaporate like dry ice? Instead of people blowing smoke screens come up with the answers.
Chuckles June 28, 2012 at 05:55 PM
WD Help you are just pricing the golf course what about the tennis facility?
Golf man June 29, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Sam, the cost of a golf course built is 2012 is quite different from the cost in 2000 or 2001. Did you forget about 9/11, several wars, and the economic crash. How can you compare the prices now to 10 years ago in the peak of the economic boom. Very Foolish. You should have been a trader on wall street, you would have prevented the entire economic downturn with your crystal ball.
WDNeedsHelp July 02, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Still does not explain the 4.5 million unaccounted for, SHOW ME THE MONEY !!!!!!! It simply disappeared from the books. Why would they be asking for the accounting if there was a 4.5 million dollar line item called "Tennis Courts", answer is because there isn't any.
WDNeedsHelp July 02, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Chuckles, clearly you missed the land was paid for, it was 10 years ago and does not include a clubhouse. I believe a tennis court is some leveled blacktop or concrete and a net. 4.5 million for that are you serious or just stupid....
WDNeedsHelp July 02, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Yes Joe, why don't they just show the accounting for the 4.5 million? You hide things when they are illegal not because they are above board and honest.
Eric Wyzykowski July 04, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Once again, as a CPA/auditor/ (also an independent), generally a bank will not disburse funds to a third party without some sort of request along with supporting documentation. It really comes down to if the funds were disbursed directly to the contractors/vendors or directly to the to the twp first? If the funds were sent directly to the township, I doubt they would require supporting docs. If the funds were sent directly to the contractors they (the contractors) should be able to provide billing invoices describing work performed that support the payments. Even if the payments were made by the twp, the contractors should still have job files on hand with signed contracts and billing invoices. My guess is the township with its lackadaisical accounting system in place (not having a general ledger is insane) probably just didn't save the invoices or support? From a debits/credits standpoint, when the loan was credited what was the other side of the entry, where is the debit? There should be an asset on the twps books for all of the work performed. Was the amount expensed and just run through? Was the loan never even recorded on the books? Raises a lot of questions from an accounting perspective. Aren't there any accountants that work at the municipal building? Finally, there should be signed contracts in place back when all of this work was performed between WD and the contractors. Any cost overruns, are then resigned with change orders. Look for these things.
Bryan Littel (Editor) July 04, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Eric - this didn't involve the township beyond the guarantee of the loan, so it falls to the bank/developers. While it's public land, the development was done privately.
Eric Wyzykowski July 04, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Thanks Bryan. If that's the case then the onus should be on the original borrower to produce the support. My guess is the original borrower is now bankrupt? A guarantor should have every right to know what the underlying borrowings were used for though. Problem is, this probably should have been looked into many years ago. If there was wrong doing between the bank/contractors wd might have had a claim in court against them if they could prove wrong doing. My guess is now the contractor is already broke and creditors already lined up in bankruptcy. Not sure there is a lot to gain now. Should have been oversight when the loan dusbursements were made.
Bryan Littel (Editor) July 04, 2012 at 03:52 PM
That's where it probably gets complicated - you had developers (the Dobsons) building the course and tennis center, but then there was a master developer for the overall project (including the planned hotel, among other things), Namwest, which went belly-up in 2008.

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