Ocean County Freeholders John P. “Jack” Kelly and John Bartlett fired back at allegations made by Little Egg Harbor Deputy Mayor David Schlick, and online commenters from this website at Wednesday’s freeholder board meeting.
Freeholder Kelly Responds To OCP Commenter’s Question
Freeholder Kelly began by first responding to comments posted by readers of this very website, although he wouldn’t mention it by name. “Today I was told about an item on one of the uh news – online,” said Kelly Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly was referring to what was posted by someone by the name of Jim Eckert, who questioned why there were apparently two John P. Kellys on the LEHT payroll on a previous Ocean County Politics article, and it got the freeholder’s attention, along with a formal response during Wednesday’s regularly scheduled public meeting of the county’s elected officials.
Will The Real John P. Kelly Please Stand Up?
Freeholder Kelly confirmed that there are indeed two individuals with the name John P. Kelly employed by Little Egg Harbor, but Mr. Kelly contends that he has no relationship with the second John P. Kelly, and that the similarity in name is just a coincidence.
“There really is no relationship whatsoever and I don’t know the gentleman,” the freeholder director declared. The unrelated Kelly is employed as a plumbing inspector while Kelly’s son is employed as a police officer in the township. Freeholder Kelly argued that his son was hired off of a list of those deemed eligible by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, and that he “waited his turn” to be hired properly.
While the freeholder appears able to escape blame this time, the public employment of Kelly and relatives of his has been an ongoing source of controversy in recent months, as Kelly most recently dropped his bid to obtain a seat on the New Jersey State Parole Board, a six-figure politically appointed position which he was nominated to by Governor Chris Christie.
Groups opposing Kelly’s nomination cited previous jobs obtained by the freeholder which he did not possess the required credentials for, such as the “airport analyst” position at the Atlantic City International Airport.
In 2015, the creation of a new $115,000 “division director” position at the Ocean County Jail following the retirement of Warden Theodore “Ted” Hutler raised eyebrows when it was revealed that the man set to be hired for the job, Michael Fromosksy – a relative of Freeholder Kelly by marriage – was set to receive the position after it was left open by then Deputy Warden Sandra Mueller. Mueller was since named Warden, the first female to serve in the role in county history.
The potential hiring of a member of Kelly’s extended family for the position led to widespread outrage, with PBA union officials that represent county corrections officers steaming over what they perceived to be a nepotism hire of a county freeholder’s relative.
Following outrage over the incident, Fromosky didn’t end up taking the county job. Instead, he was given his old job back at Little Egg Harbor, where he was previously an assistant business administrator, and later hired as a code enforcement officer trainee. Due to a lack of township committee action, Fromosky’s employment was terminated in early April of 2016 because of a provision of state law requiring code enforcement officer trainees to either be appointed to a full-time position, or terminated at the conclusion of the 12 months after they were hired with the trainee job title.
According to the April, 2016 resolution passed by the township committee rehiring Fromosky, Little Egg Harbor Mayor Gene Kobryn, a Republican, voted against hiring Fromosky, while Democrat David Schlick abstained. Schlick’s fellow Democrat, Lisa Stevens, sided with Republicans John Kehm and Ray Gormley and voted in favor of re-hiring Mr. Fromosky to keep him as a full-time code enforcement officer.
Mr. Fromosky retired from the New Jersey State Police in January of 2012 and is currently collecting a pension. According to state pension records, Fromosky’s salary used to calculate his $87,524.28 per year in pension allowances was $131,457.37 at the time of his retirement as a state trooper.
So-called “double-dippers” that retire from one government job, and then get additional public employment while collecting a public pension remain a controversial but prevalent group among politically connected public employees.
Other relatives of Freeholder Kelly have landed public jobs, with his daughter Dawn Marie Kelly having been employed as the deputy tax collector for Little Egg Harbor Township. During her tenure, Ms. Kelly admitted to stealing over $40,000 in taxpayer money that was received as cash payment for property tax charges in 2013. A lawsuit filed by Detective Steve Mecka of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office claimed that two of Governor Christie’s aides intimidated Little Egg Harbor officials in order to protect the political interests of Freeholder Kelly. Ms. Kelly was recommended favorably by the state Attorney General’s office for probation, provided she enter a long-term inpatient drug rehab program.
Committeeman Ray Gormley’s live-in girlfriend, Dayna Wilson, is currently employed as the township’s tax collector.
Bartlett Defends Open Space Purchase In Little Egg Harbor
Freeholder John C. Bartlett, Jr. – the longest serving county freeholder in the State of New Jersey – made a public statement at the meeting in response to allegations made by LEHT Deputy Mayor David Schlick regarding the price paid for land acquired as open space in Little Egg Harbor. Bartlett said he was “troubled” by comments made by Schlick alleging corruption in the process. Increased public scrutiny was directed in the direction of the purchase, since it was owned by none other than Joseph Mezzina, a developer and former chairman of the Little Egg Harbor MUA known to exercise influence over political affairs in Little Egg Harbor. Mezzina’s name was also mentioned in the Mecka lawsuit where the detective claimed that Mr. Mezzina was among several officials named as targets in corruption investigations.
Mr. Bartlett explained that in addition to being overseen by the county’s natural land trust advisory board, as a part of purchase negotiations, the county commissioned multiple professional appraisals on the property, and claimed that the $5.45 negotiated sales price paid by the county was $100,000 less than the lowest appraised value. The freeholder claimed that the tax assessor’s value of $2.2 million cited by Schlick did not reflect the fact that the property was approved for the construction of 168 town homes.
“In total we made out on almost $200,000 less than what the values would have been,” the freeholder claimed. “For someone to allege that the figures don’t add up, I suppose the alleger ought to take a closer look at where the figures came from in his town, not where the figures came from the county, because ours are done by professional appraisers, not a tax assessor.”