State Asks Marlboro Ethics Board to Look Closer at Marder Decision
Department of Community Affairs wants board to further examine councilwoman's relationship with two companies that did business with Marlboro.
The Local Finance Board of the Department of Community Affairs has asked the Marlboro Ethics Board to reconsider its original ethics decision, stating Councilwoman Randi Marder's husband conducting business with the township is a perceived impropriety.
In a letter to the Marlboro Ethics Board on Jan. 29, the department stated, "Any appearance of impropriety or tacit influence on others by an elected official impugns the standards set forth in the Local Government Ethics law."
The Local Finance Board is now asking the Marlboro Ethics Board to more closely examine Marder's relationship to two businesses that had transactions with the municipality. The board is requesting the Marlboro Ethics Board apply the standards of state ethics law.
"This is just asking them to take a look at the case in another way, I don't believe Councilwoman Marder did anything wrong," Mayor Jon Hornik said.
Patch was not able to reach Marder in time for publication. Marder's comments will be added in an updated version of this story.
In June, the Marlboro Ethics Board dismissed a claim from former council candidate Chris Dean, citing a lack of evidence. The claim originated in October of 2011, days before Marder and Dean went head to head in a Marlboro council race.
Dean alleged that Marlboro Township's use of a Manalapan printing company is unethical because the firm, Inkwell Global, is owned by the Marder's husband. Dean supplied township records, including invoices from the company, as evidence.
According to the Department of Community Affairs, the township conducted $42,000 of business with companies owned by or affiliated with Marder.
Hornik said Inkwell has been working with the township for many years, offering products at cost.
Marder told Patch last year that the business has printed Shop Marlboro signs for the township as well as other marketing materials for about 30 years.
After review since June, the Local Finance Board of the Department of Community Affairs has asked the Marlboro Ethics Board to reconsider two matters using the “appropriate legal standard."
Throughout the seven-month process within Marlboro Township, Dean questioned the ability of the Ethics Board to make a decision, asking it the complaint could be moved to a state level where perceived conflicts of interested would be avoided.
"Some of you even go out to eat with the mayor," Dean said to the board at a March meeting.
The complaint was filed with the municipal ethics board, therefore could not be moved to the state without first being considered locally. Dean appealed the municipal board's decision in August.
According to the state Finance Board, Marder's financial disclosure statements from 2008-2012 show Inkwell is a revenue source for her husband, but do not show her own ownership in the company.
In ethics testimony during the investigation in Marlboro, Marder said Inkwell is owned by her husband and his family.
“This quote would be inconsistent with the information provided in her FDS from 2008 to 2012 because, as noted above, she does not disclose any ownership interests of Inkwell for herself or her husband," the Local Finance Board said.
Hornik said the township has never had a contract with Inkwell Global, and the amount of services do not require a contract.
By law, a business is subject to a Township Council vote and public bid process if the business receives more than $17,500 from the township in one year. Invoices submitted by Dean showed the largest transaction was around $360.
Dean did not submit every invoice between Inkwell and Marlboro Township to the board.
"This is strictly a politically motivated charge brought by Chris Dean, and he continues to waste taxpayer money to make a name for himself," Hornik said.
During the investigation by the Marlboro Ethics Board, the board exceeded its approved legal costs and submitted a request for more money from the township. The Township Council has since asked the board to justify those costs. Marder recused herself from those discussions.
The ethics charges against Marder are now remanded back to the Marlboro Ethics Board for further investigation into Marder's relationship with the businesses.
Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13) said, “I find it surprising and more than a little disappointing that a local elected official would allow the town she represents to spend taxpayer dollars with her family business without disclosing her interests in the business."
In August, Patch discovered the township no longer uses Inkwell Global for Recreation trophies.