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Pay-to-Play Law Questioned Following Appointment

A number of people, including the Democratic Party chairman, are questioning town council's solicitor selection, according to the Burlington County Times.

Current and former Moorestown political players, on both sides of the aisle, have questioned whether the current town council played fast and loose with the township's anti-pay-to-play law by appointing a law firm with political ties, according to an article in the Burlington County Times.

Council selected Capehart Scatchard attorney Anthony Drollas as township solicitor earlier this month. According to the Times story, Drollas' firm made contributions to the joint campaign account of former Burlington County freeholders Bruce Garganio and Mary Ann O’Brien. Money from that account was later used to help fund the campaign of Moorestown Republican council candidates Phil Garwood, Victoria Napolitano and Peter Palko.

Moorestown Democratic Committee Chairman Robert Gorman and former councilman Daniel Roccato were critical of the appointment and the way council seemed to take advantage of the pay-to-play law.

To read the full story, including the response from the Republican leadership, click here.

To read our story about Drollas' connection to Moorestown Mall owner PREIT, click here.

(Note: This story has been edited to remove comments attributed to former Mayor John Button, which were made to another media outlet. Button contends his comments, which were not made directly to Patch, were reported inaccurately, and were not meant for publication.)

Capehart watcher January 26, 2013 at 08:46 PM
All due respect, before you joined a firm for personal financial gain - unless your work there is pro bono - you might have done a better job looking into their political past and familiarizing yourself with their political dealings as they are well documented. When you say either party raises it, that is probably true and part of the ugly political landscape. However, records show that Capehart is the dominant player in Burlington County and jobs and paybacks flow back and forth. Are you familiar with the controversial hiring of Mr. Drollas (and subsequent firing in Evesham? Transparency matters. Funneling money in and out of other campaigns is influence peddling. It needs to stop. I hope the public can count on you to get Capehart to end it on behalf of the public, the same people you would expect to entrust you with their legal work.
Dienstag January 26, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Well, I hear Button is moving anyways ........ Rumor has it his house is "under contract" ........ Is this just a last parting shot by a washed up has been Mayor?? Hmmmmmmmmm
Patricia White January 26, 2013 at 09:05 PM
You can't swing a dead cat without hitting an attorney in this town -- why would council ever consider Coleman and Capehart as the two choices? Coleman proved to be a bad choice and, with the selection of an attorney who has already proven to be less than honest/ethical (with question #2 on the liquor referendum), one can only assume that we are in for another bad ride. After surviving the backlash from poor legal judgement on the Open Space funds and the liquor question under Coleman, I think the township has been through enough. Can't we come up with someone to represent the township who comes with neither baggage nor compromised ethics?
Ed Nice January 26, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Hey Pat, maybe you forgot but Coleman wasn't wrong on the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland & Historic Preservation Fund. You and STEM lost the lawsuit. Judge Bookbinder said it was legal to use it for fields....STEM then walked away from caring whether such lands even mattered. “This court disagrees with STEM’s argument that the definition of recreation and conservation clearly does not include or contemplate artificial turf fields or the type of athletic activities which would occur on artificial turf fields,” he wrote. STEM also argued the state statute only promotes activities having a “natural origin,” i.e. not artificial turf. However, Bookbinder ruled this argument was “undermined” by the fact that language in the statute permits “public indoor recreation,” such as swimming pools and basketball courts. Bookbinder also pointed to the phrase “or similar uses” included in the state statute’s definition of recreation and conservation to suggest “the Legislature appears to promote recreational and/or conservation activities which may not have been explicitly identified.” Can't wait to see if Mayor Jordan keeps using the funds for maintenance on all parks even those not acquired by the fund even though STEM thinks that was illegal.
Marci January 26, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Rob, isn't it Patch policy to prohibit the types of insults and false accusations that are on here daily? I can't determine if Patch is TMZ or a real news outfit. Without limitation, you agree that you will not post or transmit to other users anything that contains Content that: •is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive; • is threatening, harassing or that promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual; •is inaccurate, false or misleading in any way; We know you like to chip in so at least make sure the commenter's comments meet the terms of use.
utr January 26, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Let's stop the nastiness gang!
Donnerstag January 26, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Ok, folks, let's be perfectly honest here. We've been over and over this before, and now just gonna say the way it is. We've painstakingly discussed this back and forth, and where are we going with this? When you discuss what you have to say you're gonna be cut off, because you've gone way past the three minute time limit. Hopefully, we all can resolve this at the next meeting. Wonder if this board will reinstate the "Public discussion and presentations" or are we going to have to wait until the end of the meeting again to ask a decent, meaningful, unadulterated set of questions?
G. Williams January 26, 2013 at 10:20 PM
The inherent problem with political campaigns at any level is how to pay for them. Local elections can cost $50000. County elections can be $300,000. State elections, $500,000. and so on. Even these numbers are quite subjective. Campaign costs are driven by exposure. The more you get, the more it costs. If an opponent is super wealthy, or has the backing to use TV, it's a whole new ballgame. The costs can skyrocket. How many private citizens can or would donate any significant cash to a campaign? Who but special interests, businesses who seek reward, or organizations with an agenda would contribute to their favorite candidate? It is naive to think that any campaign would not accept contributions from these sources if they expect to win. Along with the application of tighter campaign laws to appease the public and curb pay-to-play, are the use of PACS, Bundlers, Organizational political arms, etc. Other than publicly funding all campaigns there is no other funding source. And, public funding not only doesn't work, but it would open volumes of issues regarding campaign content. Maybe, that's not so bad a thing. The current campaign funding system may stink, but I for one do not know of any fair funding mechanism that would. Two Billion was spent on the presidential election. If you think that came from the pockets of all of us you are kidding yourself. Most politicos I know cringe at even the thought of approaching a prospective contributor.
spot zoning January 26, 2013 at 11:11 PM
That seems fair to judge him on his work. He was the lawyer who wrote the now illegal famous question 2 about limited booze at the mall. He told us it could be restricted and we believed him. Guess what. He was wrong. He lost. We lost. So much for his solid legal skils. Lots of non lawyers were right and now we get to pay him every day proving lawyers are the problem.
Johnny Velcro January 26, 2013 at 11:53 PM
You know, it’s great to hear from our former Mayor Button. It got me thinking that since he did not get the party nomination to run again, we did not get to give him the proper sendoff. What’s a sendoff without a look back at his “accomplishments” as Mayor. Let’s take a stroll down JB’s memory lane: - Multiple secret meetings with PREIT to discuss liquor licenses. - Got the township in more lawsuits in 2 years then in the past 10 years (We can see why Coleman loved you!) -Ignored 1,400 hundred voters that wanted a ballot question clarifying the uses of Open Space funds. -Pushed a Norcross backed company to provide the town’s employee health benefits. -Got dumped by his own party which refused to back his re-election. -Ran as an Independent with a woman that never voted in any election, ever. -Aborted his Independent run for re-election when it was apparent that he was going to lose. -Broke ground on the town hall/library project almost 4 years to the day of taking office. Did it really take you four years to replace a building? -Reneged on his promise to Councilman Gallo to only serve one year as Mayor. Hope you enjoyed this trip down JB memory lane. Johnny, we hardly know ya!
Marci January 27, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Rob, this is exactly the type of comment that violates Patch's policy -How do you know there was secret meetings if they were secret? Was anyone from Capehart in the secret meetings too? -Got any stats? Does preit's failed queston 2 count? -22,000 people in town. Judge already clarified -Who would that be? Proof? -How did that turn out? -Proof? -Proof? -Looks like 6. Didn't realize he was Emperor and could do it by himself. -Are you tapping his phone? You seem obsessed with the man. Since Rob doesn't care about the policy, we should all just make up stuff and post it.
Ed Nice January 27, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Pat why did you delete your post and my reply...I saved it just in case Patricia White 4:05 pm on Saturday, January 26, 2013 You can't swing a dead cat without hitting an attorney in this town -- why would council ever consider Coleman and Capehart as the two choices? Coleman proved to be a bad choice and, with the selection of an attorney who has already proven to be less than honest/ethical (with question #2 on the liquor referendum), one can only assume that we are in for another bad ride. After surviving the backlash from poor legal judgement on the Open Space funds and the liquor question under Coleman, I think the township has been through enough. Can't we come up with someone to represent the township who comes with neither baggage nor compromised ethics?
John Button January 27, 2013 at 01:28 AM
let's set the record straight: A local paper published an inaccurate and misleading article on Friday with regard to comments I made when they called me about pay-to-play. Today, the Patch ran their version of the article without speaking to me directly. I was called by a reporter last week citing information about the flow of contributions that had allegedly taken place in the Republican Party during the election and asked for a comment. I stated that I had no comment and did not want to be on record saying anything, because I was hearing about this for the first time and would need many more facts before making a comment. I have written to the local paper and the Patch stating my strong exception to the article's content attributed to me. I have not heard back from the paper that published the story yet, but hope to imminently. The Patch has said they will will remove my quotes and add an editors note that reflects my exception to certain remarks. I will not engage in further dialogue in this forum for I don't believe it's productive. I didn't raise the topic, I haven't researched the topic with regard to the recent election and I haven't made any accusations, whatsoever, about pay-to-play impropriety. I believe I had an open, honest relationship with the media throughout my term on Council and it is certainly disheartening to have had this happen now. Hopefully, it will be properly resolved imminently.
Ed Nice January 27, 2013 at 01:45 AM
and my reply Ed Nice 4:37 pm on Saturday, January 26, 2013 Hey Pat, maybe you forgot but Coleman wasn't wrong on the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland & Historic Preservation Fund. You and STEM lost the lawsuit. Judge Bookbinder said it was legal to use it for fields....STEM then walked away from caring whether such lands even mattered. “This court disagrees with STEM’s argument that the definition of recreation and conservation clearly does not include or contemplate artificial turf fields or the type of athletic activities which would occur on artificial turf fields,” he wrote. STEM also argued the state statute only promotes activities having a “natural origin,” i.e. not artificial turf. However, Bookbinder ruled this argument was “undermined” by the fact that language in the statute permits “public indoor recreation,” such as swimming pools and basketball courts. Bookbinder also pointed to the phrase “or similar uses” included in the state statute’s definition of recreation and conservation to suggest “the Legislature appears to promote recreational and/or conservation activities which may not have been explicitly identified.” Can't wait to see if Mayor Jordan keeps using the funds for maintenance on all parks even those not acquired by the fund even though STEM thinks that was illegal.
Donnerstag January 27, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Can we all be perfectly honest here folks?
M'town Truth January 27, 2013 at 03:46 AM
Isn't funny how quiet Rob can be sometimes? Glad I'm not the only one who notices it.
M'town Truth January 27, 2013 at 03:48 AM
Yes Rob - where are you now that peopl are being named and defamed? out looking for the facts? or just keeping quiet? I am of the opinion that this decision smells bad - and in politics that means it IS bad.
M'town Truth January 27, 2013 at 03:52 AM
Which just confirms my prior opinion that "The Patch" is nothing at all like journalism. It's a money-making, agenda-driven medium that pretends to be a news source. Think "Facebook for Small Towns."
M'town Truth January 27, 2013 at 03:52 AM
Sure. Why don't you go third? or fourth?
M'town Truth January 27, 2013 at 03:53 AM
Re-posting something that a person chose to delete is despicable - but not surprising given your history of personal attacks and smears.
Donnerstag January 27, 2013 at 04:13 AM
Honestly, batting clean up may work in this situation. Maybe someone will hear "outta here"!
Spokesperson January 27, 2013 at 04:16 AM
Pat White smears 2 people and coach corrects her and instead of apologizing she deletes her post to hide from it and that makes coach the one who is despicable. Whatever! At least coach really tells the truth.
Patricia White January 27, 2013 at 04:50 AM
Ed: I didn't delete anything. Someone at Patch's end apparently decided to do some censorship. Character assassination of some former council members was fine with them -- my rather innocuous comments and your reply must have been flagged.
Rob Scott (Editor) January 27, 2013 at 03:06 PM
"Isn't funny how quiet Rob can be sometimes? Glad I'm not the only one who notices it." In response to M'town Truth and others who questioned why I wasn't responding to or moderating comments all throughout the day yesterday: It's called the weekend. I try to enjoy it, when I can—I suggest everyone here do the same.
TC Historian January 27, 2013 at 06:55 PM
As for reporters.. As a warning for town councilmembers, nothing is off the record. While we don't know what conversation transpired here, it is fair to see what button's explanation here. Who knows what the reporters apparent twisting of this conversation happened. Advice especially to our new councilmembers, assume everything " is on the record". And with others, as President Reagan once said, "trust and verify".
Thomas D. Begley, III January 27, 2013 at 10:28 PM
To Capehart Watcher, three thoughts for your consideration. First, there is an irony that you argue for transparency when your comment is hidden behind a pseudonym. Mine is not. Second, I have to confess that you would object to me going to work to make a living. Although I do not know you, I have to guess that you went to work for a paycheck as well. I do Trusts and Estates; however, I will note that I do a fair amount of reduced fee and pro bono work. I believe all attorneys should. Third, I believe that there is considerable merit to argue against pay to play and for transparency. However, it is naive for you or I to expect appointments to go to those who did not support. The problem is that many appointments are made to those who are not qualified and that is a huge issue. In all, it's a very complex issue which people are tempted to dumb down in their argument. I'd be happy to share a cup of coffee with you to discuss in person anytime. Just shoot me a private e-mail at work. My big point, though, in my argument seems to be missed by you. We have serious problems in our town which need to be addressed. My point is that we spend far too much time on demonizing those from other parties and we are failing to focus on pushing those in office to address these issues. Hopefully, our current council will do so.
Tom January 28, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Tom, it is sleazey all around and applaud you for opposing pay to play. What are the serious issues in town everyone can talk about instead?
Ogie Oglethorpe January 28, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Sooo....does anyone know when the Hooters is going to open in East Gate???
Thomas D. Begley, III January 29, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Tom, I believe that the handling of the township offices and police station has not been addressed adequately. It is a problem which should have been fixed a long time ago. I think that our property taxes could be lower although I acknowledge it's a state wide problem. That's a start. Thanks for your comment. My offer for a cup of coffee extends to you as well. Having said that, although we have issues, I will say we have great town spirit in general and do many things well. Tom
Tom January 29, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Tom, it was kind of you to reply. I agree that the handling has not been addressed adequately. However, I am perplexed by your desire to see the facilities fixed but also believe our property taxes could be lower. I don't see how it is possible to fix them without raising taxes; let alone lower them.

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