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Threat of Lawsuit Halts Council Action on Fields Project

Moorestown council members continue the debate over using Open Space Trust Fund money for field improvements after a last-minute lawsuit threat stymies a resolution.

Township council had hoped to resolve the longstanding matter of funding the fields projects Monday night, but was thwarted at the 11th hour by the threat of a lawsuit.

Mayor John Button opened the meeting explaining council had received a letter only an hour or so before threatening an “immediate injunction” against the township if it passed a resolution authorizing the use of the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund to pay for field improvements at .

Township attorney Thomas Coleman said the letter was addressed to the township by the Baron & Brennan law firm out of Voorhees, who are representing an “association of Moorestown residents,” none of whom are named in the letter.

“I take the threat seriously,” Coleman told council, going on to say one of his major concerns would be the potential for a second lawsuit from the contractor for the Wesley Bishop project “who doesn’t want to hear he’s not going to be paid” as a result of the first lawsuit.

Coleman suggested council seek a declaratory judgment from Superior Court Judge Ronald Bookbinder () on the legality of using the Trust Fund for the fields so the township can “get an answer once and for all.”

Coleman has repeatedly advised council the use of the Trust Fund for the fields projects is an allowed use.

The council members then debated, somewhat vigorously, their next move. , since Bookbinder probably wouldn’t deliver a judgment until late summer anyway, according to Coleman.

“If this goes into July and August, we’ve clearly lost the season,” Jordan said. “Priority one is town hall. I don’t think we should be wasting our time on this.”

Deputy Mayor Greg Gallo fired back that delaying a decision, once again, would be a disservice to all the people who’ve invested their time in this project.

“To say, ‘Let’s put it off till next spring,’ it’ll never get done,” he said. “We owe it (to everyone) to either do it or move on.”

The back-and-forth continued, with Councilman Mike Testa lamenting that —from sponsorships and other contributions—could be lost if the project doesn’t get done or is delayed.

Jordan dug in, accusing the other council members of acting like “the 5-year-olds I used to take care of … throwing a temper tantrum, telling me we have to do this, hoping I’ll change my mind. I’m not going to change my mind.”

Councilman Chris Chiacchio backed up Jordan, suggesting the ongoing debate “”—a comment that was met up with applause from the audience.

Ultimately, the council members—as always on this matter—agreed to disagree on the merits of using the Trust Fund to pay for the fields.

If the township seeks a declaratory judgment, and if Bookbinder rules in the township’s favor, Coleman said it’s almost certain they’d have to rebid the project anyway.

Button advised Coleman to seek further clarity from Baron & Brennan and their unnamed plaintiffs, though Coleman said he wasn’t sure how much more clarity he’d be able to get.

“Respectfully, the letter is pretty clear,” Coleman said.

Nonetheless, council held off on any further action and tabled a vote. However, Button indicated it’s very likely they’ll hold a special meeting to revisit the matter before the next regular meeting on June 11.

Ed Nice May 24, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Ohhhh and you wonder why I take shots DH!!! Do really think that BGT haven't sat down and tried to work this out with J and C. I know for a fact that Jordan has lead Button to believe that she has come around before the last couple of meetings with all the different options to pay for the project to then during the meeting stick to her guns like she is some big savior for the town. She and Chiacchio have done everything they can to justify blocking the projects. But how is it ok for baseball to have turf but not North? Tell me that DH. How is it that we can pay for lights that were not a priority according to Carew but North was the number 2 priority of the projects. If the lights were dangerous get the people to play on the other fields or take them all down and only play with day light until they could be fixed. How is it that these projects were picked over the big turf field? Too many political games are being played here. The law suit is a bluff and they are now going to call for another special meeting and I would think they will add to the agenda the option of bonding one more time before they pull the trigger. North is going to get done and should get done. Hell we should be using the liquor money anyway to pay for it. Use it for capital improvements and not day to day expenses to balance the budget.
Third Base Coach May 24, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Maybe because MYBF and those lights have been around longer than the others?
William May 24, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Diehard.. We think that the current mayor wants to Continue as mayor for more than two years. So he has resorted to try a run as an independent, and thinks somehow he'll get two others on council to vote for him as mayor again. The only way, it appears, he could do that is his slate of three wins, which is very unlikely. But , no I don't know what he is trying to prove to run as an independent. Got me.
diehardrep May 25, 2012 at 11:52 PM
William, Good point. I'm not sure if he can after just finishing a 2 year term. Would have to check on that. I know that Miller did it, but I don't know what if anything has changed in the Faulkner Act. He could be running because he didn't like being ousted. I don't think it's because he loves the town. I assume he quit the republican party. The best he can hope for is to hurt other reps, not just a few, but most of them. That isn't love.
Great Town May 27, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Hi guys- just an FYI as for past mayors serving as mayor for more than 2 years. aberant mayor 4 years, Miller mayor for 6 years, maahs for 6 or 8 years , and so on. Fwiu, someone can be mayor for unlimited continous sessions as long as they get reelected. There is No rule stating that there must be a rotating process for mayot. Usually the person who has the most seniority if possible is voted by council as mayor.

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