Deputy Mayor: Little Egg Harbor is Full of Corruption

At last week’s township committee meeting, Deputy Mayor David Schlick brought forth shocking revelations about Little Egg Harbor government, claiming that he’s found “corruption throughout this town,” after he looked into the concerns of taxpayers.

Last November, despite receiving no help from the Ocean County Democratic organization, Democrats David Schlick and Lisa Stevens won in what was perhaps the biggest upset victory to occur in southern Ocean County in recent times, with Schlick & Stevens having deposed incumbent Republicans Art Midgley and Ed Nuttall on the township’s governing body.

In the 2015 race – which was characterized by vitriolic and polarizing rhetoric – the Schlick team prevailed against all odds, with the deputy mayor receiving multiple threats demanding that he drop out of the race – and having his house burn down shortly thereafter.

“I ran to lower taxes, have more transparency and to fix what I see as shady and crooked actions. I have done the first two, and I am working on the third one everyday,” Schlick said at the meeting.

Undeterred, after just a few months of being in office, Mr. Schlick came out swinging against what he claims is widespread corruption that he has uncovered at highest levels of the Little Egg Harbor administration, as his fellow committee members watched on in silence. Schlick’s investigation was prompted by an anonymous email that detailed specific allegations, which you can read here.

And after he obtained stacks of documents and did his own research, Schlick said those allegations are “all true.”

“Numbers just don’t add up” On Mezzina County Land Deal

Mr. Schlick said that after hearing the pleas of Mathistown Road property owner Lori Aceto at a public meeting earlier in May, he began digging into issue surrounding the tax assessments and whether or not those with political connections were getting special treatment.

Lori Aceto, seen confronting the committee earlier in May

Lori Aceto, seen confronting the committee earlier in May

Consulting public records, the deputy mayor did additional research into the issues. Here’s what he found:

“I found out that her taxes are $17,000 a year for 10 acres, that comes to $1,700 per acre,” he said.” But just down the road, he found out that Mezzina – the same company that got building approvals Mrs. Aceto’s family was denied for – was paying the fire sale price of $598 per acre in property taxes.

That same property was recently given approval by the freeholders to be acquired by the county as open space, and had an assessed value of $2.2 million, but for whatever reason the county ended up buying the land for over double that price, giving Mezzina $5.45 million, according to the deputy mayor.

“The numbers just don’t add up,” Schlick said.

John Kehm

John Kehm

David Schlick

David Schlick

Legality Of John Kehm’s Giant 90% Tax Cut Questioned

Concerns over shady property tax assessments led an anonymous resident to tip off Schlick (and OCP) about one of his fellow committee members, Republican John Kehm.

In 2013, many of Little Egg Harbor’s residents filed property tax appeals on their homes that were ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, with many not being able to live in them due to the severity of the damage.

But Committeeman (then Mayor) Kehm’s huge tax reduction stood out from all of the rest.

Says Schlick:

“If you see the reduction one house got, all the other reductions that the houses around it got are not even close, and it’s really disturbing.”

LittleEggMap

A map of reductions neighboring properties got. (click to enlarge)

Kehm got the following judgement from the Ocean County Board of Taxation after filing a tax appeal for 2013:

kehmtaxjudgement

Here’s Committeeman Kehm’s home as seen in 2013 by Google Street view:

Kehmhouse

Is this house really only worth just over $9000?

Residents familiar with the property said that Kehm has been living in the house the entire time since Sandy, which is corroborated by the above picture from 2013.

Here is the home’s property tax assessments going back to 2004:

Kehmtax

Mr. Schlick may have just hit the tip of the iceberg, as his requests for public information on tax assessments prompted Little Egg Harbor tax assessor Joseph Sorrentino to mail letters at taxpayer expense notifying Kehm and others that Schlick was requesting information on the assessed values of their properties.

lehtletter

George Gilmore’s son Michael Gilmore defends tax appeals in Little Egg Harbor and many other Ocean County municipalities. We last saw him defending tax appeals in Lacey Township, where he vigorously fought appeals filed by residents.

George Gilmore's son Michael, who defends against tax appeals in many municipalities, seen here in Lacey Township

George Gilmore’s son Michael, who defends against tax appeals in many municipalities, seen here in Lacey Township

With how we’ve seen Gilmore defending tax appeals, it just begs the question: how could Mr. Gilmore have let something as big as Kehm’s reduction get through? Kehm wasn’t even represented by an attorney for his tax appeal, records showed.

Committeeman Kehm chose not to respond to any of Schlick’s allegations at the meeting, but did take notice of the Ocean County Politics camera recording the meeting, stating “That’s a nice camera you’ve got there,” to this reporter before scurrying out to a closed-door executive session meeting.

Keith Davis

Keith Davis

Mayor Kobryn

Mayor Kobryn

Keith Davis’ “Shady” Contract

Another point of contention brought forth by Schlick was the hiring of Atlantic County Republican chairman Keith Davis’ law firm. Mayor Gene Kobryn – who was kicked out of the Little Egg Harbor Republican Club for being bipartisan – wanted to hire a law firm with no political ties to investigate accusations made by employees.

Instead, with the help of LEHT Republicans John Kehm and Ray Gormley, Atlantic County GOP boss Keith Davis has crossed the Mullica River into Ocean County, breaking from his usual routine of country club fundraisers in Linwood to get another public contract in Little Egg Harbor.

Deputy Mayor Schlick said that although the contract was awarded legally, the fact that it was rushed through at the last meeting in December before the holiday season was “shady.” Schlick, siding with Kobryn criticized the hiring of Davis, as the outside lawyer that Mayor Kobryn wanted to hire not only had no political ties to the area, but also had an hourly rate $115 less than Davis. Even over those factors, Davis still got the job.

Thus far, over $5000 have been spent with the Davis firm, with no findings being presented to township officials, despite mounting legal bills.

As Atlantic City Burns, Gilmore & Friends Profit

Chairman Davis’ surrogates in Atlantic County have rewarded Ocean County’s Republicans well.  Interestingly enough, the Ocean County GOP’s political director, Chris Filiciello, is both an officer of the Little Egg Harbor Republican Club in addition to serving as GOP Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian’s chief of staff.

Over in Atlantic City, where part-time lifeguard have received pensions, the Gilmore firm received a lucrative contract to defend the city against casino tax appeals, which have become increasingly costly and controversial in light of PILOT legislation proposed in the state legislature. Other Ocean County GOP professionals received contracts in Atlantic City as well.

“I will take this as far as I have to,” Deputy Mayor Schlick Says

Promising to continue rooting out corruption in Little Egg Harbor, Schlick promised not to give up.

“Since my inquiries a lot of people are scared and they’re running,” Schlick added. “People are trying to cover up now because I’m onto something.”

David Schlick

David Schlick isn’t giving up.

“It absolutely is corruption, hands down,” he said. “The numbers don’t lie there is corruption and it needs to stop.” We will have much more to come out of Little Egg Harbor, as our sources continue to apprise us of all the sleazy details.

Gavin Rozzi

Gavin Rozzi is the editor of Ocean County Politics and a lifelong Ocean County resident, residing in Lacey Township. Gavin's work centers on the intersection of money and politics in Ocean County, with a focus on public corruption. In 2017 he created New Jersey's first statewide freedom of information portal, OPRAmachine.com. He can be reached via email at editor@politicsoc.com or via phone at (732)-504-3636 ext. 1 or on encrypted phone / text app Signal.

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40 Responses

  1. Minitonka says:

    Looks like they are sharing notes with Toms River.

  2. kickyourace says:

    Shit going down in LEH. All at taxpayer expense. I can see why the GOP and the Ocean County Democratic Organization fought Dave so hard.

  3. kickyourace says:

    Little Egg Harbor tax assessor Joseph Sorrentino to mail letters at taxpayer expense

    Total bullshit. This was a simple OPRA request and Sorrentino might be looking for a new job.

  4. Heroin Zombies says:

    Where are the Feds?

    • Mercy Otis Warren says:

      They are useless. Reporters like Mr. Rozzi and a bunch of pissed off citizens are the solution.

  5. Grime says:

    HOLY SHIT!…This sounds like Lacey Twp……Can’t weight for the black suv’s to come! Keep turning the screws Dave….You go man!

  6. Gumshoe says:

    These crooks should get measured for their prison suits! Hey Feds, are you reading this stuff?

    • Mercy Otis Warren says:

      The feds are exponentially more corrupt than local government. Look down for solutions not up!

  7. I am watching you says:

    The OCP is corrupt the state wont do anything because of Gov Fat Boy and his ties to the Happy Gilmore Machine the Feds are the only hope

    • Gavin Rozzi says:

      That’s exactly what the next part of this story involves!

      • I am watching you says:

        Cant wait to see what happens! Keep up the Good Work!

        • Mercy Otis Warren says:

          I wouldn’t bet on the feds. They have a long and storied history of sheer incompetence — if not malice.

          • Prince Rainer says:

            Nothing will happen, the only thing that may happen, is the voters gets sick of the nepotism, cronyism, hiring of family, hiring of friends, and vote new people in. They did it over in Brick when that got out of control, but I bet the new Administration there is doing the same thing. Maybe not to the extent that the last Administration did but I don’t think it ends. Easily.

          • Mercy Otis Warren says:

            Sadly, you are probably right. I have said it before and I will say it again. Government can not function without first exempting themselves from the moral law. They fund their operation through legalized theft. I can not steal; you can not steal, but some abstract entity that none of us can actually touch is allowed to steal. If something benevolent comes from that, it is going to be the exception, not the rule.

          • Luke says:

            Agree: however some of these petty politicians that run these two bit towns and entities hate to read about themselves in a negative manner. So go forth and tell tales about the friends and family hiring plan, the cronyism, nepotism that rifle’s through OC. When they see themselves, there family’s names, there friends names. Maybe, just maybe the next lot. may think twice.

          • Mercy Otis Warren says:

            For sure; I love what Mr. Rozzi is doing. He is shining light on filthy situations and light disinfects (stole that from a quote he previously posted by Justice Brandeis) Send the cock roaches scurrying.

          • guest says:

            It is just ludicrous what transpires within these towns. Not sure if it is true did not see the article., maintaining the context of this article here that talks about zoning. That a Toms River councilman lost his suit against the very Zoning Board he appointed this week. Kind of crazy, in that, Toms River being a Strong/ Mayor council, the Council appoints the Zoning Board, I am sure at some point, this councilman appointed one or more of these members. Typical Ocean County politics.

          • Meathead says:

            WHAT are YOU talking ABOUT?

          • Prince Rainer says:

            Toms River councilman Jeff Carr, lost his suit against the Toms River zoning board. That’s it.

  8. Lori Aceto says:

    Wow. Incredibly thorough reporting by the Editor and prudent and courageous politicking by the Deputy Mayor. Teresa Aceto came to this country 66 years ago from a farm in Italy with $50 in her pocket leaving her entire family behind..in 1974 she purchased that BEAUTIFUL piece of land on Mathistown Rd she hoped to maybe live on someday. For the last 44 YEARS that property has been caught in a of relentless web of political corruption, of which she has nothing to do with…….She is 89 YEARS OLD and STILL works in the Forked River Butcher Shop 3 days a week so she can pay her taxes and keep her American Dream alive. I stand in awe of her everyday , as do all that are lucky enough to know her…I pray for justice and the people that serve it…And I pray for PEACE for Teresa Aceto in this lifetime…

  9. Bill Wright says:

    Im not defending anyone, especially when it comes down to taxes and all we see around town. But aside from the tax bill and “anonymous”email and other dubious actions by the new politician in an election year, I am skeptical on most of what was presented as much as I am as what our president is telling us on the Economy and Terrorism. David doesnt seem anymore honest or forthright to me than Hillary Clinton. Remember, Politics is 2 sides of the same coin.

    • I am watching you says:

      If you cant see the corruption and nepotism you sir are an idiot

    • Jody Saltsman Stewart says:

      First I believe everyone should have ALL the facts before they bring peoples names into things. Right down to Mr Schlick. The township Mr Sorrentino had nothing to do with the committee person getting the tax break the county did it. As for the MUA, it is a different problem not owned or operated by LEH So people please get your facts before you talk or publish news articles.

  10. Mercy Otis Warren says:

    This whole situation continues to appall. This developer with the help of that government effectively stole Mrs. Aceto’s property. Why isn’t there a criminal investigation being conducted? Great work on the article, Mr. Rozzi. And if I were, Mr. Schlick, I would be applying for a concealed carry permit. He would be eligible even in spite of NJ’s absurd laws. Then again, who was the superior court judge in that jurisdiction appointed by? This state reaks with corruption.

    • Gavin Rozzi says:

      Thank you. The Little Egg Harbor situation is about to get bigger and it now involves high level county officials. I am in the process of obtaining more documents. This could be the start of something BIG. Local law enforcement has proven useless. We have no further choice but to prosecute this in the court of public opinion.

  11. Gumshoe says:

    Dear Fellow Readers:

    Earlier today, a reader called Prince Rainer said he doesn’t think this corruption will ever end. I enjoy reading his posts but I do hope he’s wrong.
    Dear Prince, please keep writing, I like reading your comments. But we need to take action and protect our towns and our hard earned tax dollars. Aside from the fact that corruption is “just plain wrong,” corruption costs us tax payers our hard earned money.
    Below I am printing a list of NJ politicians convicted of crimes since 2000.
    It’s unbelievable, and these are just the people that got caught and
    convicted! For every one that got caught, many others got away with it,
    obviously many in Little Egg Harbor! We need to put these crooks in jail, maybe then new politicians will think twice before cheating on their property taxes on the backs of devastated Sandy victims.

    Those of us that are still good people should try to make “public service” an honorable and trustworthy position. I think we can do it, we have to band together, promote honesty and convict the guilty.

    Dear fellow readers, meet some NJ political crooks:

    New Jersey 2011-2015

    •Assemblyman Alberto Coutinho (D) convicted of theft and falsifying records. (2013)

    •Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen (D) jailed for child pornography. (2010)

    •Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D) jailed for filing false campaign finance reports. (2010)

    •Mayor of Trenton Tony F. Mack (D) was convicted of bribery, fraud, extortion and money laundering. His trial began on January 6, 2014, and on February 7, 2014 he was convicted on all counts. (2014)[77] He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.

    •Mayor of Hamilton John Bencivengo (R) was sentenced to 38 months in prison for corruption (2013)

    •Mayor of Perth Amboy Joseph Vas (D) and his longtime top mayoral aide, Melvin Ramos, were indicted by a federal grand jury for mail fraud, misapplication of funds, and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.[80] sentenced to 6 and a half years for federal corruption. (2011)

    New Jersey 2000-2009

    •New Jersey Operation Bid Rig: An FBI sting operation indicted 44 New Jersey officials and several Rabbis, mainly for bribery, counterfeiting of intellectual property, money laundering, organ harvesting, and political corruption. Arrested were:

    1. Assemblyman Daniel M. Van Pelt (R) Resigned after indictment for bribery. Van Pelt was convicted on May 19, 2010, of accepting a $10,000 bribe to provide environmental permits for an Ocean Township development project.[10]On Nov. 19th he was sentenced to 41 months
    in federal prison.[11] He was released in December 2013

    2. State Senator Wayne R. Bryant (D) was convicted of bribery. (2007)

    3. State Senator Joseph Coniglio (D) indicted for abusing state grants, mail fraud and extortion. (2008)

    4. State Senator Sharpe James (D) On April 16, 2008, James was convicted of five counts of fraud by a federal jury. On July 29, 2008, he was sentenced by Judge William J. Martini to 27 months in prison.

    5. State Senator John A. Lynch, Jr. (D) convicted of mail fraud and tax evasion. (2006)

    6. Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto (D) convicted of corruption. (2004)

    YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!

    • Mercy Otis Warren says:

      Great information; thanks for posting. But I unfortunately agree with Prince Rainer for the reasons cited below. Government — by its very nature— is an immoral enterprise.

    • guest says:

      The listed special folks you mention, in my opinion are a different matter. I think most of them stole money,,,, if I am not mistaken. I think the earlier post’s have to do with nepotism, crony hiring and the like. In Rainers defense, he/she might be saying. Get that information out there to the voting public. Post whom and who these town and its agencies are hiring, the relationships they have to members of Township Council, Town Mayors, town leaders, local R and D Club leader and so on.

      • G Dog. says:

        So what are you saying? A person in charge of hiring in Municipal gov. looks at 2 resumes. One is a hard working type that has a family and is in need of a job, but does not know a R from D if he fell over them, the other a relation of a councilperson, Mayor, leader of a town political party boss or generic political hack form way back or current hack. Guess whom gets the job? IMHO, that is stealing.

  12. Kathleen Fleming Williscroft says:

    I hope a list of Every Name in Little Egg Harbor is published that have been involved in any type of corruption. Have it published in the Asbury and Atlantic City Press including the Tuckerton Beacon. Everyone should know who these corrupt people are that have worked for and still have lucrative salaries and riduculous vacation time. Also an inquiry be made of their family members jobs and new businesses of relatives opened up in Little Egg Harbor. Zoning, permits and taxes of these businesses old and new should be investigated. Included in that report should be residents being harassed, overcharged and bullied by members in our township and county; either more money is wanted or corrupt individuals want certain properties for themselves and inundating individuals with paperwork so they are unable to sell there property. The tip has only been touched there is numerous corruption in all levels, and some individuals have been hired so they can be a puppet and do what they are told. We have even paid for individuals college, so they can be the yes men. I hope all of this comes to light. Thank you for doing your job and hopefully they can get jail time, pay back what they took; including college degrees and hopefully lose their job when found guilty. Stay safe Kathy Williscroft

    • guest says:

      Oh Kathleen you are so right. This may start a trend or at least an attempt to make public the goings on in local Municipal and County Gov. It ain’t just LEH, believe you me.

  13. Howard says:

    Partial list of LEHT officials under investigation

  14. Howard says:

    A partial list of LEHT people under investigation

  15. FJLinNJ says:

    Amen to Lori Aceto’s post.

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