The Little Egg Harbor / Tuckerton PBA is formally calling on LEHT Committeemen Ray Gormley & John Kehm to resign after they led what some described as a politically motivated and retaliatory witch hunt against Township Administrator / CFO Garrett Loesch and Police Chief Richard Buzby, which ended with no action taken against either at Thursday’s committee meeting.
A months-long saga was finally brought to a close in Little Egg Harbor last week during a heated public meeting held at the township’s Frog Pond Elementary School, which was chosen as a new venue due to the large turnout.
“I believe that Ray Gormley and John Kehm should take responsibility for their actions and immediately resign from their public offices,” PBA Local 295 President Joel E. Mahr said in a statement released after the meeting.
“And, if they do not resign,” continued Mahr, “I hope that members of the community will gather the required number of signatures and file petitions to have John Kehm and Ray Gormley recalled from their positions in a special election.”
Top law enforcement officials including police chiefs from all over the state attended the meeting in a show of solidarity with Little Egg Harbor Police Chief Richard Buzby, who was targeted in an investigation initiated in December of 2015 related to reimbursements for a cell phone he was directed to purchase in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
We spotted former Lacey Township police chief William Nally, Manchester police chief Lisa Parker, Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy and many others among those that attended the meeting.
Nehmad, Perillo & Davis, the law firm of polarizing Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis was hired and billed township taxpayers thousands of dollars to conduct their investigation into the conduct of both Loesch and Buzby.
The documents of their investigation are technically confidential personnel documents exempt from disclosure under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), but both Loesch and Buzby have consented to their release in the interest of transparency. Ocean County Politics has filed public records requests to obtain these reports, and they will posted on this website as soon as they become available, through official channels or otherwise.
NPD partner Salvatore Perillo presented the findings of the reports to the public and commmittee in a presentation that spanned both last month’s meeting and continued it during last week’s meeting.
Attorneys for both Buzby and Loesch were critical that they were unable to obtain or respond to allegations contained in the Nehmad, Perillo & Davis reports before the public meeting. “Why are the two most honest individuals being put on trial?” questioned Loesch’s attorney, Christopher Gray. “That’s what needs to be looked into here.”
Where In The World Was Robin LaBue?
A notable absence on the dais for this meeting was Gilmore & Monahan attorney Robin LaBue, who usually represents Little Egg Harbor at township meetings. Ms. LaBue was replaced by Jean Cipriani of the same firm. Ocean County Politics has learned that the last minute change of township attorneys was a chess move made shortly before the meeting at the direction of Ocean County Republican Chairman and Gilmore & Monahan managing partner George R. Gilmore.
But what was the real reason for LaBue’s absence Thursday night?
Former Little Egg Harbor committeeman Ed Nuttall, who occasionally writes here at OCP, publicly questioned the LaBue switcheroo during Thursday night’s contentious meeting.
“Robin LaBue is conveniently not here tonight,” said Nuttall. “That was orchestrated on purpose and you know it,” he said, confronting Cipriani.
Nuttall alleged that LaBue’s absence made it “convenient for you [Jean Cipriani] to deny knowledge” of Buzby’s criminal complaints.
An emotional Buzby later fired back at Cipriani, critical of the Gilmore law firm’s handling of allegations of misconduct he brought forth during his tenure as chief. “I’ve requested investigations from your co-counsel and have gotten nothing,” Buzby said of wrongdoing he previously brought to the attention of Gilmore & Monahan attorney Robin LaBue.
Loesch Calls Out Gilmore Trickery
Garrett Loesch later joined in during the public comment session, and questioned Cipriani’s purported lack of knowledge of the criminal complaints.
Loesch said that in a meeting held at the Gilmore firm’s 10 Allen Street headquarters in Toms River, Cipriani was called into the room during a meeting between George Gilmore, Loesch and former Little Egg Harbor committeeman Arthur Midgley.
Mr. Loesch publicly recalled that after Cipriani was called into the room by Gilmore, she advised the two that Loesch and DPW head Patrick Donnelly would not qualify for whistleblower protection, since only Chief Buzby signed the criminal complaints.
“As far as not having personal knowledge, I can look you right in the eye and know that you knew of the whistleblower document,” said Loesch.
PBA Prez: Chief Buzby, Administrator Loesch Have Uncovered Corruption
PBA President Mahr, in addition to calling for resignations, stated that Little Egg Harbor Township Administrator / CFO Garrett Loesch and Police Chief Richard Buzby have uncovered evidence of corruption, much of which we have previously reported on here through leaked documents.
“I now believe that this investigation was in retaliation for Chief Buzby and Garrett Loesch exposing Committeemen John Kehm’s and Ray Gormley’s involvement in activities which could be viewed as improper, corrupt and/or unlawful,” he wrote in a prepared statement.
In the days leading up to the meeting, the Little Egg Harbor / Tuckerton PBA took the unprecedented move of holding a vote of confidence, with the majority of members supporting Chief Buzby despite not even having a chance to know what was being alleged against the chief.
Gormley and Kehm both abstained from voting after it was brought to the attention of attorney Cipriani and those present at the meeting that both Republican elected officials were implicated in criminal complaints forwarded to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office by Chief Buzby.
After a back-and-forth between the attorneys present that saw Cipriani feign ignorance regarding the complaints, Ms. Cipriani advised the two that they should abstain from voting on motions related to Buzby and Loesch due to the potential for a conflict of interest.
In previous reports, we’ve detailed some of the revelations Mr. Buzby’s investigations have uncovered, including the chief playing a role in fired Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Steven Mecka’s public corruption investigations, as well as Buzby filing a report that alleges that a politically connected engineering firm favored by Ocean County Republican Leaders, Remington, Vernick & Vena, provided the former executive director of the Little Egg Harbor MUA with top-dollar sports tickets in order to maintain good business relations, among other allegations documented by Chief Buzby.
Calling the entire investigation a “witch hunt,” Chief Buzby’s wife Nancy Buzby paraphrased the saga surrounding the investigation into her husband: “Let’s throw out the chief because he won’t go along with the Republicans, the county and the corruption,” she said.
“I knew there was corruption, but holy mackeral I didn’t know there was this much.”
Speaking to the political implications of the spat between her husband and two elected officials, Mrs. Buzby said “I can tell you I’m a lifelong Republican, but I need to tell you people, think long and hard who you vote for in this town because you had two Republicans throw out two Republicans, and you had two Democrats elected, one has been drinking the koolaid.”
Is Lisa Stevens Drinking The Kool-Aid?
The Democrat allegedly drinking the GOP “kool-aid” referenced by Mrs. Buzby is Committeewoman Lisa Stevens, who was elected along with Deputy Mayor Dave Schlick when the two defeated Republicans Arthur Midgley and Ed Nuttall in 2015. But since their election, Stevens and Schlick have been at odds politically, with Stevens voting in line with Republicans Ray Gormley and John Kehm, and not joining her running mate in his series of corruption exposes that have rocked the township.
Stevens echoed the sentiment of her colleague John Kehm, and – rather than calling for an end to unethical activities by Little Egg Harbor Township officials – called for the state Attorney General’s office to instead investigate the sources of leaked documents published by this website, a comment which drew laughs from the crowd.
Stevens made a statement at the meeting and said that she was elected “not to take any sides” and described the meeting as a “dog and pony show.”
In the 2016 campaign, Mayor Eugene “Gene” Kobryn, who was first elected as a Republican, will face former Republican mayor Barbara “Bobbi Jo” Crea, who replaced Kobryn as the Republican nominee after his LEHT Republican Club membership was revoked earlier this year.
Following Thursday night’s theatrics, the three eligible members of the township committee voted to end the entire investigation, and take no disciplinary action against either Mr. Loesch or Mr. Buzby, but the recent tensions in Little Egg Harbor will likely be sure to influence the outcome of this year’s election, or even necessitate a special election to recall Gormley & Kehm given the multiple calls for their resignation made at the meeting.