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Breaking Down State's Ethics Decision on Marlboro Councilwoman Marder

Marlboro-Colts Neck Patch takes a look at the Local Finance Board's decision to not uphold one finding in the Marder ethics case.

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 Jan. 29 letter to the Marlboro Ethics Board (attached to this article), the Local Finance Board upholds a postion of the MTEB's decision to dismiss charges citing lack of evidence.

However, the Local Finance Board also called for additional investigation and the application of state legal standards and ethics laws.

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, . Dean supplied township records, including invoices from the company, as evidence.

Findings of the Marlboro Ethics Board in July, 2012:

  1. Marder did not violate the Township Ethics Code "simply because Inkwell continued to do business with the township following Marder's election."
  2. Mayor Jon Hornik and Councilman Frank LaRocca, named in Dean's claim but not charged in the claim, were excluded from review because Dean did not file the necessary forms to include them.
  3. The MTEB was the appropriate venue for the complaint and was entitled to take jurisdiction.

Voting record and award of bids

While Marder has never directly voted through her position on council to award Inkwell any contract or bid, the board found an annual resolution allowing the Township Purchasing Agent to purchase and award bids to any company within a $17,500 threshold without council approval.

A state law upholds that resolution. 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.

The letter also states that between 2008 and 2011, Inkwell received $18,825 from the township. Also between that time, Lenny's Trophies, owned by Inkwell, received $24,879.35.

"These payments for goods and services did not exceed the minimum bid threshold in any one given year, and review of the procedures followed to award the work to the companies indicates that provisions of the Local Public Contracting Law were followed."

Local Finance Board Action

An investigation by the Local Finance Board began when Dean appealed the MTEB decision to the state on Aug. 10.

Dean alleged the MTEB is not properly constituted by the Local Government Ethics Law and one or more members of the MTEB engaged in inappropriate ex parte communication with Hornik during the investigation.

In the Jan. 29 letter, the Local Finance Board details that while the state upholds findings 2 and 3 from the MTTEB, a perceived impropriety between Marder as a Councilwoman and transactions between the township and Steven Marder's business deserves further investigation.

The Local Finance Board found the MTEB's code is substantially similar to state ethics codes, and is approved the appropriate state boards.

However, the Local Finance Board also found that the MTEB did not thoroughly investigate Marder's relationship to Inkwell in relation to the township's own ethical standards.

"If a relationship exists that should have been disclosed, the MTEB should apply the proper legal standard to Councilwoman Marder's relationship to Inkwell and the award of work to Inkwell by the township," the letter stated.

Additional investigation and application of the law is now in the hands of the MTEB.

The next Marlboro Township Ethics Board meeting is not yet scheduled.

milton McC February 06, 2013 at 12:09 PM
What this comes down to is whether she properly filled out a form.It has little impact on what Dean have implied. According to the state, Dean never provide any proof that there was wrong doing. Try offering something productive as to how to move the town forward.
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 01:28 PM
It seems to me that this may be more than not properly filling out a form especially when it has been done incorrectly each time. I asked several questions on the other post http://marlboro-coltsneck.patch.com/articles/state-dept-of-community-affairs-rules-marder-s-actions-were-unethical and I am hoping to get some responses to help me clarify the real issue(s). Thanks.
Harvey February 06, 2013 at 02:59 PM
I have read that Inkwell has stopped doing business with the town, and this has raised the cost of the items to the town. Great job
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 03:03 PM
Harvey, I am not sure what your statement really means. Does that mean that an ethical violation did not occur? If costs decreased, would that mean that a violation did occur?
milton McC February 06, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Be honest, as a republican, and a member of the republican club, you just don like the decision.
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 11:31 PM
What are you talking about Milton?? I voted for this administration. It isn't that I don't like the decision, I am trying to understand the facts. Maybe instead of insulting people, you can take the time and respond to specific questions instead of making false assumptions. Thanks for your future consideration.
Michael Mirkin February 07, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Well I am a Republican and I too voted for Mr. Hornik. I just find it amusing that the point is consistently being missed. Here is a quote from another news source and LFB ruling "But LBF took issue with MTEB’s findings that Marder did not violate the Township’s Ethics Code. LBF’s review of the record indicated that Marder did act in her official capacity on Township resolutions that included doing business with Inkwell. Additionally, LBF found that Marder omitted her family’s ownership interest in Inkwell from her Financial Disclosure Statements". So what this is saying the the townships ethics board ruling was incorrect and there was an ethics violation. I dont understand how Mr. LaRocca can make statements to the contrary. But I guess being in legal practice with the mayor has nothing to do with it. Mr. LaRocca also states that "Lenny’s Trophies and Inkwell had conducted business with the Township of Marlboro for many years prior to Councilwoman Marder’s election in 2007, providing low cost items, trophies and awards for various township programs", "The result, unfortunately, has been an increase in costs over and above the substantially discounted prices". So lets get something straight is it low cost or at cost... i am confused b/c my impression that it was always at cost?
milton McC February 07, 2013 at 04:57 PM
What is the news source? Low cost or at cost, the to town is now paying more for the same services. There was never a vote to buy anything from Inkwell because the Business Administrator has the right to purchase thigs that are below the threashold that would trigger an official bid process. If you have ever been involved in a bid, you know it involves enourmous amounts of paperwork and is extremely time consuming. This has been discussed and repeated by the press many times. I would respectfuly suggest that you get a copy of the decision rather than depend on "other news sources."
Michael Mirkin February 07, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Evidence to the contrary get the facts straight.....

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