Friday, August 12, 2005

Morris money continues to flow

Published in the August 11, 2005 issue of The Courier.

Morris money continues to flow


Money from Piscataway-based developer Jack Morris continues to flow to Monmouth County coffers.

With the July 15 quarterly election reports available on-line at the Election Law Enforcement Commission’s (ELEC) website, additional disbursements of money to state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, from Morris and his associates and companies have been found.

In March 2001, Democrat-controlled Aberdeen and Republican-controlled Matawan joined into an interlocal services agreement for the redevelopment of the Aberdeen-Matawan Train Station.

In September 2002, five teams submitted plans for the project in response to the interlocal agency’s request for proposals (RFP).

Richard Coppola, planner for the interlocal agency, endorsed a proposal by Silver Oaks Properties saying, “This proposal most closely meets the agency’s plan that has been endorsed by both the [Matawan] Borough Council and the [Aberdeen] Township Council.” Aberdeen agreed, selecting Silver Oaks Properties as the town’s redeveloper

A plan introduced by Morris’s company, the Columbia Group, was deemed “not consistent with the interlocal agency’s vision of the redevelopment project. However, Matawan broke with the agency’s assessment and chose the Columbia Group, along with K. Hovnanian and Mack-Cali Realty, as the redevelopment team for the borough in a resolution adopted December 3, 2002.

From April 1999 to April 2004, Morris, his companies and individuals employed by his companies contributed $47,200 to Kyrillos’s campaign funds.

On October 2, 2001, $5,600 from a $10,000 contribution made on October 1, 2001 by JSM @ New Durham LLC was refunded. Additionally, on February 23, 2005, a day after that infamous day in Monmouth’s history when 11 officials were taken away in handcuffs on bribery and corruption charges, Kyrillos’s campaign returned five $1,800 contributions to Morris and his wife.

According to the new July 15, 2005 ELEC report, Morris’s wife, a principal in the couple’s companies, contributed $2,600 to Kyrillos on June 9, 2005 and Edgewood Properties, a Morris company, contributed $2,600, also on June 9, 2005. On June 20, 2005, $2,200 of the $2,600 was returned to Edgewood Properties.

Thus, the amount of Morris money collected over four election cycles and remaining in Kyrillos’s campaign coffers now stands at $35,600.

Aberdeen Township Manager Mark Coren said Kyrillos expressed a preference for the Columbia Group’s proposal in a meeting that took place with former Matawan Borough Administrator Joe Leo in Kyrillos’s offices in December 2002.

Kyrillos denied lobbying on behalf of Morris’s company and said he believed the proposal issued by Silver Oaks Properties, which called for some 2 million square footage of commercial and office space between the two municipalities, was not consistent with the character of the area.

During a press conference held Thursday, July 21, Democrat candidate for assembly Michael Dasaro called on the Office of the State Attorney General to investigate the financial relationship between Kyrillos and Morris.

In a written statement handed out at the press conference, Dasaro’s runningmate, William Flynn, called on Kyrillos to return all money the senator received from Morris, as he believed it represented a conflict of interest.

Kyrillos called the press conference “laughable” and a “political stunt.” Whether Flynn’s call for the Morris money to be returned will go unheeded remains to be seen: the July 15, 2005 ELEC report only takes into account money received or returned from April 1, 2005 to June 30, 2005.

The next quarterly report, which is due October 15, 2005, will detail all contributions received or returned from July 1, 2005 to September 30, 2005.

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