Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Attorney’s Records in Little Egg Harbor
Little Egg Harbor Township has been instructed to transfer all documents related to the professional employment, bills and contracts of the Toms River law firm Gilmore and Monahan to the U.S. District Court Grand Jury by Feb. 9. The township’s records as well as the records from seven other municipalities served by the firm were subpoenaed on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
During the township’s Jan. 26 municipal meeting, Township Attorney Jean Cipriani of Gilmore and Monahan said the documents could have easily been requested through OPRA (open public meetings act) as public information. Cipriani said the subpoenas ask for contracts, bills, records and minutes of meetings in which attorneys for Gilmore and Monahan were present.
“There’s nothing specific here, and it’s not a conflict at this point,” she said in response to a question from Gavin Rozzi, reporter and blogger of his own website, Ocean County Politics. Rozzi asked the township if it was considering hiring a conflicts attorney as the federal investigation proceeds.
Mayor Ray Gormley answered that the township always has a conflicts attorney available. Gormley said he couldn’t comment further.
George Gilmore is chairman of the Ocean County Republican Committee. The seven other towns that utilize Gilmore and Monahan as their attorneys are Bay Head, Seaside Heights, Berkeley, Lacey, Jackson, Plumstead and Lakewood.
Earlier in the meeting, Democrat Committeeman Dave Schlick asked why Cipriani was taking the place of the former attorney, Robin La Bue, and if Gilmore had instigated the change.
Cipriani said as far as she knew it was a “simple situation.”
“Last year was a tough year in Little Egg, and the firm may have decided to make a change to see if it made a difference,” she said.
Schlick then asked if the firm was billing the township for the hours that were needed for Cipriani to be caught up on the township’s ongoing law issues, and she said it was not.
Gormley then said that in late December the new deputy mayor, Barbara Jo Crea, was going over the request for proposals from law offices, and “there was a consensus on the committee that they would like to make a change.”
Schlick said he had not been asked for his opinion.
Gormley said, “There was a consensus; the governing body was told to submit their ideas or thoughts to the clerk on the RFPs.”
“I wasn’t asked,” said Schlick.
Then he asked why LaBue had not submitted a letter to the committee in December, one which the governing body had asked her to pen requesting the state attorney general and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s help in investigating various claims of wrongdoing in the township.
“She was asked by Gene (former Mayor Gene Kobryn) to submit it to the committee for approval before she sent it, and she never showed us the letter.”
Cipriani said she knew that a letter had been sent. “There is an opportunity to do it again,” she suggested. “There’s no reason why the committee couldn’t see it. If she was supposed to do it, on behalf of the firm I apologize, and offer to do another if there is a way to correct it.”
Committeewoman Lisa Stevens added, “Kobryn wanted to personally see the letter. Wasn’t it so the mayor could have a final say? We all agreed we wanted to see the letter.”
“I’m sorry; if there is a need for a letter in the future, I promise we will be attentive,” said the attorney.
— Pat Johnson