Today, I received a Landlord Registration Statement showing that a Fairfield Township (Cumberland County) rental property owned by Roo Roo Rentals, LLC, a corporation owned by Lawrence Township (Cumberland County) Clerk Ruth Dawson and her husband John Dawson, is being managed by TES Real Estate, LLC, which is a company owned by Lawrence Township Attorney Thomas E. Seeley. While it does not violate any law or ethical proscription that I know of for a municipal clerk to hire the municipal attorney’s company to manage her rental property, I felt that this financial connection between Dawson and Seeley would nonetheless be of interest to Lawrence residents.
Also interesting are the circumstances surrounding me obtaining the Landlord Registration Statement on the Roo Roo property. I had originally submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the certificate to Fairfield in January 2013. I was informed by Fairfield Township Zoning Officer Bob Hulitt that he wasn’t aware of the requirement for Landlord’s to file registration statements and that there was no statement on file for Roo Roo’s property at 9 Collett Drive. I found this odd since a) the legal requirement for landlords to file registration statements has been in existence since June 25, 1974 and b) Dawson, as municipal clerk, is responsible for receiving and filing the certificates as part of her duties as municipal clerk. (N.J.S.A. 46:8-28 states that the registration statements shall be “file[d] with the clerk of the municipality, or with such other municipal official as is designated by the clerk, in which the residential property is situated.”)
I refiled my OPRA request for the Landlord Registration Statement on July 3, 2013 and received it today–July 22, 2013. The Statement is dated July 19, 2013, meaning that Dawson did not file it until after I had submitted my second OPRA request for it.
The Landlord Registration Statement, Financial Disclosure Statements for both Seeley and Dawson as well as other relevant documents are on-line here.