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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, . 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.

Michael Mirkin February 05, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Anonymous - Corruption is equally embraced by the Dems and Rep. Political affiliation does not determine individuals character or lack there of. The 2 links above make a good point (no matter how one sided they are) that in NJ corruption is rampant and widespread and is an acceptable way of doing business and will be in place for as long as public employee's maintain an attitude 'what can I get out of this". To address this problem we need to begin by cleaning up the breeding ponds of local municipal gov't that are the ultimate candidate suppliers to the Assembly and the Senate. if you learn at the local level that this is how the business gets done and get away with it, then the infractions just get bigger. In this case Mrs. Marder should have a. made sure that the information that she was providing for the election was accurate and b. instructed her husband to stop all business with the town. That would have eliminated any doubt or speculation of impropriety. Simple! I am just surprised that Mr. Hornik as an attorney and Marlboro's chief executive did not think that this type of business relationship could ever be questioned no matter how benign it might actually be.
Kaitlyn Anness February 05, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Hearsay that is damaging to the reputation of any one person will be deleted from Patch as per our Terms of Use.
milton McC February 05, 2013 at 08:14 PM
If the Local Finance Board had thought the decision was wrong they would have just overturned it or taken jurisdiction of the case as they have in prior cases that were brought to them. It appears that a form may have been filled out incorrectly. Her husband’s family owns the company, not her. The fix here is very simple and she should correct the information on the form. No ethics violation occurred because she did not vote on or was involved in any purchases and no contract ever existed which as stated by the detailed report from the Marlboro Ethics Board. The important question now is what are the motives of The Deans that has cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars? Their end game is obvious; to grab power despite the outcome of an election and to create an issue for the next election, when one does not exist. The Deans led a campaign of misinformation, lies, and half truths and never offered a single solitary alternative other than “we are not them.” It looks like they are continuing down the same road. The citizens of Marlboro are a lot smarter and more sophisticated than a “ I can see Canada from my back yard” local political wanabe
Stuart Mandel February 05, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Kaitlyn, why was my comment deleted? Did I write something inappropriate? I thought I was just asking miltin to stay on topic. Please explain. Thank you.
Kaitlyn Anness February 05, 2013 at 08:54 PM
The thread was deleted, your comment was directed toward Milton specifically and no one else and once his comment was deleted yours no longer made sense.
Stuart Mandel February 05, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Thanks Kaitlyn. That makes sense. I appreciate your response.
cynicinmarlboro February 05, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Not for anything, but even if her name is not associated to the business, she does receive benefit from it via her husband. Even if what was done for the town was at cost (and thanks for that), the income derived from the business would have to be shared. However, the rules are skewed so that this would not seem to be unethical, even if she did not vote on a single issue involving the business and the town. The sense of impropriety is still there. Having the same group look at it again will not change a thing. Seems a waste of time to me.
Resident Morganville February 06, 2013 at 12:33 AM
Hornik hangs with these people and goes out to dinner?,who pays?, someone needs to look into Horinks foul pla, he is as crooked as the rest of the NJ politics?... - "I dont "believe" she has done anything wrong", ..? but then say provided services "at cost" where is the bids, what companies lost? what businesses have "lower costs" and could have done it of $28,000.00? $42,000.00 dollars in printing, are you kiding? A wife that doesnt claim the Husbands business is her own? Whos car does she drive? The business owned car? whos cell phone does she use? who pays for their vacations? lets see the business write offs and expenses...Or does she drive a taxpayer dollars funded automobile? Lets see her get divorced and not lay claim to the "husbands business" or its profits...lol, what a joke, we have to get out of this town, or this state for that matter, disgusting..Who pays for Horniks nights out...? Lets hire a P.I. to track hornik for a while, and see who else may be playing to pay ? He is too comfortable...and pick up my damn leaves and sticks !- Bet ya Marders home got picked up !
Resident Morganville February 06, 2013 at 12:40 AM
hey "anonymous", Handlin has nothing to do with Marlboro being corrupt or not. Why say to stay out of Marlboro Politics, is it because you are scared someone will find something??? How are you so sure Marlboro is clean? did you audit the books and do your own investigation?
milton McC February 06, 2013 at 02:11 AM
The whole think was a waste of time. Dean, knight and the rest now hae to answer why they caused the town to waste 10s of thousands on their fishing expedition .
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 02:32 AM
I have been trying to understand the issues regarding this matter and the best I can do is come up with questions. I would appreciate if anyone has more information about this than I do to please respond. I would also appreciate no insults or false accusations towards members of either party. My intention is to truly understand what is really going on here: 1. If there was no contract or requirement to bid out the work that Inkwell provided, how do we know that products and/or services were sold at cost? What method of price comparison was utilized? 2. If the DCA found a discrepancy in the forms that Ms. Marder completed and submitted, why is Mayor Hornik saying that she did not do anything wrong (whether intentional or not)? 3.How did DCA determine that the township conducted $42,000 of business with companies owned by or affiliated with Marder? Where were all of these other invoices during the original investigation? 4. Why is it considered wasting taxpayer money if the DCA is asking the local board to use appropriate legal standard? What standard/method did the local board use? 5. Did the board have access to legal counsel to guide them as to the proper standards with which to review this matter? If so, does any of the responsibility fall on the attorney advising the board and should there be financial consequences/reimbursement to the taxpayers if he did not correctly and adequately advise them? I hope these questions make sense. Thanks.
anonymous February 06, 2013 at 04:36 AM
Hey "resident" She failed to say a damn thing about the pension fraud at the Sheriff's Department. Her silence, in my opinion, condones it. When you see something, you say something!
Kaitlyn Anness February 06, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Stuart, I only have answers to some of your questions. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I never became a lawyer. But I will do my best! I do have the answer to #1: Going out to big is an expensive process for both businesses and townships, which is why the state allows a no-bid process if the transaction equals less than $17,500 per year (that state number may have changed since last year, but I know that is how Marlboro has run it). That is a state law that municipalities usually follow in order to encourage local business and small business to do business with government without having to go through a lengthy and expensive bid process. I know there is more to that answer that someone may be able to add on to, but again--chose journalism over law :)
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Thank you Kaitlyn, but my real question for #1 is really how do we know that we received items at cost or that we received the lowest price if these purchases were not subject to the bid process or any type of comparative pricing? I am not questioning or saying that they should have been put out to bid, but rather how can anyone say with any degree of certainty that we received them at cost.
Michael Mirkin February 06, 2013 at 02:10 PM
Stuart - I think you have some very valid questions and perhaps they should be directed to the mayors office for an explanation. But I doubt that you will be able to get a real answer. I don't believe that the ethics board can be impartial on this matter and I don't believe they really don't want to deal with this mess for obvious reasons hence why the ethics counsels budget of $2500 was exceeded in the first place. If Mr. Hornik truly feels that no township or municipal policies were violated then he should ask the DCA to nominate/provide for an independent investigator into this matter. With regard to some of the comments here there were no ten's of thousands of dollars spent here. Here is a quote from June 14-2012 patch article on this matter "At Wednesday's meeting, the board said now that it has exceeded its $2,500 limit for attorney fees, it will approach the town for a budget of $750 to $1,000 per month, as agreed upon by Biedzynski". Again truth is never convenient!
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Thank you Michael. I just hope that I have not been victim of a false sense of security. I have heard many stories of wrong-doing in this town over the years and I hope that this is not another example of another. I am still puzzled that Mr. Biedzynski did not follow the correct method if interpreting the ethics rules in determining this case. I am also under the impression that Mr. Deans claim regarding Mayor Hornik and Councilman LaRocca was not dismissed but rather not able to be heard because he did not complete a certain form. Does this mean that there still can be cause for ethical concerns for actions that they may have commited? Thanks to anyone who can clarify.
Kaitlyn Anness February 06, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Stuart, Any claims against Mayor Hornik and Councilman LaRocca were never investigated by the MTEB or the Local Finance Board, so whether there is truth or not is not what the state was commenting on. The MTEB decided since the claim was not officially filed against Hornik and LaRocca, it could not be investigated. They invited Mr. Dean to file separate charges, which he never did. If he had, an investigation would have begun, just as it had with Randi Marder. My guess is that when you fill out a form, you write who the complainant is and who the "defendant" is, and only Ms. Marder's name was written. While Hornik and LaRocca's names were in the body of the complaint, no complaint was officially filed against them.
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 03:42 PM
That's what I thought. If Mr. Dean wants, or anyone for that matter, they can bring Hornik and LaRocca up on ethics charges as long as they properly complete the required form. Also, the ethics board do not investigate anything regarding them because of this incoomplete form so there was nothing determined concern guilt or innocence.
milton McC February 06, 2013 at 08:48 PM
I believe that since the town has not done business with Inkwell the costs have been reported to have risen about $10,000. A sure indication that the town was getting a good deal.
milton McC February 06, 2013 at 08:55 PM
The ethics board spent the money first and then asked for approval to have a budget increase. Surely not the proper procedure. I think the language of the council was " not to exceed".
Harvey February 06, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Stuart, I think it important to review the current prices that the town is now paying for the same or comparative items from vendors other than Inkwell. Since these items seem to fall into the "under the bid minimum" requirement, history, and previous Marlboro administrations to use Inkwell in the first place, should somehow serve as a history of fair treatment. If the history between the town and Inkwell was established, as I have read, about thirty years ago, did Mrs. Marder have involvement since the inception. Whenever I read these stories, I am always looking for the "smoking gun", but in this case, since there has been no evidence, that I have seen, that even suggests the town overpaid for goods and services from any party, it starts to look more political than anything.
Stuart Mandel February 06, 2013 at 11:29 PM
To Harvey 4:20 pm on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 You have a valid point, however, I think the question should be whether or not Marder should have ceased doing business with the town once she was elected. I don't believe that this should be an issue of the ends justifying the means. I am not even sure that there is a smoking gun, but it does cause one to raise an eyebrow that the ownership relationship was not disclosed on more than one document submission. Even if we assume that Marder offered low proces, it doesn't negate the fact that there was business conducted with the town while in an elected office.
Michael Mirkin February 07, 2013 at 03:56 PM
For anyone who is interested http://www.moremonmouthmusings.net/2013/02/06/local-finance-board-faults-marlboro-ethics-boards-investigation-into-councilwoman-marders-conflict/
milton McC February 07, 2013 at 08:42 PM
What you fail to report or disclose is that More Monmouth Musings is a publication that is run as an arm of the Republian party and is operated by Art Gallagher (http://www.app.com/article/20111016/NJNEWS/310160047/Highlands-council-candidate-prominent-blogger-arrested?nclick_check=1) Saying it is an independent blog is akin to saying Fox News (R) and MSNBC (D) are not biased towards a particular end of the political spectrum. I must question the motives, in this case politically based motives, of a blogger who was charged as a felon.
Frank LaRocca February 08, 2013 at 02:03 AM
1. The proof is in the pudding, costs have gone up for the same items significantly. Its public record, go OPRA it like you do everything else. 2. She listed inkwell in the top part of the form and the llc that owns the building in the bottom. Go look at the forms, not intentional as the whole world knew he owned the company. 3. They only observe the record and 42k over a 5 year period is consistent with the record. The affiliated company was the purchase by inkwell of lennys. 4. As you can read from the opinion, even though the MTEB found no proof of a violation, the LFB still wants the two questions specifically answered. You and everyone else knows Councilwoman Marder doesn't vote on or order any of the items at hand. 5. quite frankly, this point makes little sense. a remand for more detailed findings is the opinion of the LFB. The investigation as to those facts has already been made as they are actually referenced in the LFB decision. The MTEB just needs to make specific findings as to the two questions we all know the answers to. I hope this makes sense.
Frank LaRocca February 08, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Please let Mr. Dean know that ethics complaints by law are private unless and until they become public under the law. I will prosecute any and every person or entity that violates this law to the fullest extent. If I did something wrong, it should be public. But politically motivated drivel file by a loser (quite handily) of a campaign against me that are bogus and defamatory will be met with swift and aggressive legal action.
Tugwalla February 08, 2013 at 01:36 PM
This is the norm in any Democrat administration...look at whats happening in surrounding towns run by Democrats...this is small potatoes compared to other stories on the patch!
tom thornton February 09, 2013 at 03:24 PM
It looks like you forgot the name Matthew V. Scannapieco??? A BIG TIME THIEF! He was the REPUBLICAN mayor of Marlboro who along with some membersrs and the chaidrman of Planning Board literally sold our town to developers.
Michael Mirkin February 11, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Like I said above it does not matter DEM or REP a thief is a thief. Political affiliation does not define one's character or integrity. "All Greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him, will never have any other than an existence of mediocrity". - James F. Cooper.
Michael Mirkin February 11, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Just in case anyone is interested in the law that is being referenced..... 5:35-1.2 Confidentiality (a) Any complaints statements information or documents obtained or prepared by the Board staff or the Board are deemed confidential and not subject to public disclosure during the course of the preliminary investigation or investigation to determine whether a violation of the Local Government Ethics law has occurred, except as necessary for the Board's staff or the Board to conduct the preliminary investigation or investigation. (b) The Board's discussion regarding a preliminary investigation or investigation shall be in executive session. However. any vote by the Board regarding a preliminary investigation or investigation shall be in public session. in public session. the complaint shall only be identified by a docket number. detennined by the Board 's staff. (c) The Notice the complaint and allied statements or infornation obtained by the Board's staff during the course of the preliminary investigation or investigation are subject to public disclosure 30 days after mailing a Notice of Dismissal, pursuant to NJ.A.C. 5:35-I.1(h), or a Notice of Violation, pursuant to N.JAC. 5:35-I.1(i).

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