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Random Notes on NJ Government

Township Committeeman in Salem seeks review of $500 ethics fine.

According to records recently received by way of an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, a sitting member of the Lower Alloways Creek Township (Salem County) Committee is contesting a $500 fine levied against him by state ethics authorities on February 13, 2017.

According to two separate Notices of Violation issued by the Local Finance Board, the main New Jersey agency that investigates ethics violations, Township Committeeman Richard Venable violated the Local Government Ethics Law by acting on Township police business while his son was a sergeant in the Township’s police department.

According to the first violation notice, Venable voted on a 2013 proposed ordinance that sought to clarify the roles of the Lower Alloways Creek Public Safety Director.  The second notice alleged that Venable participated in a 2014 Township Committee executive session at which the police union’s collective bargaining agreement was discussed.  The Board fined Venable $250 for each violation claiming that he acted in his official capacity in a matter in which an immediate family member had an interest and which “might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment.”

Both Notices of Violation advised Venable of his right to request an administrative hearing within 30 days.  Venable exercised that right and claimed that Township Solicitor George Rosenberger advised him that he could participate in both matters.

According to an Excel spreadsheet recently disclosed by the Office of Administrative Law, Venable’s ethics hearing or another proceeding related to it was scheduled to be heard by Administrative Law Judge Dorothy Incarvito-Garrabrant in Atlantic City at 10 a.m. on November 29, 2017.  No information is presently available regarding the results of that hearing.

According to a roster of ethics matters recently released by the Local Finance Board, the ethics complaint against Venable was filed by Robert F. Breslin.  According to a November 13, 2017 news article, Breslin lost to Venable in the 2017 general election by 34 votes.

Also, according to the Township’s website, Richard W. Venable, Jr., who is presumably Committeeman Venable’s son, is the Township’s Acting Chief.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project