TO THE EDITOR: It appears that Lacey Township Committee Member Gary Quinn is about to draw a three-count ethics complaint against himself following the upcoming Pinelands Commission meeting on Thursday. Quinn has already cast two votes on the New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline that he and his fellow committee members consider integral to Lacey’s interests. Thursday’s vote will mark the third time Quinn has voted on the pipeline, even though his interests are conflicted as both a Pinelands commissioner who must objectively review the application and as a member of a township committee that plainly supports it. He cannot do both.
LACEY – I’ve publicly called on Quinn to recuse himself— you can read the letters for yourself (here). My biggest concern is that Quinn’s colleagues have made public comments that tie together the importance of his vote and the township’s interests in the pipeline. It’s more than a wink and a nod.
I’m not seeking to argue the township’s position on the project—it certainly has the absolute right and responsibility to determine what it is in its own self-interests, and then to aggressively pursue it. But according to the state’s ethics laws, the general public also has the right to know that the decisions being made on its behalf are impartial and objective, with the sole criteria being the merits of a project‘s application, not a commissioner’s conflicting interests.
Quinn can faithfully and simultaneously discharge both of his responsibilities by recusing himself from voting on the pipeline matter at the Pinelands Commission meeting on Thursday morning. But the fact that the vote is moving ahead suggests he has not chosen this path. That’s too bad.
If he does cast yet another conflicted vote, Quinn will leave me with no option other than to file three ethics complaints against him—one for each tainted vote on the pipeline. Each count is punishable by a fine that ranges from $500 to $10,000, and significantly, would reflect poorly on his future tenure on the Commission. As a holdover commissioner whose term has expired, Quinn is in a “limbo” that will be resolved by the next governor’s decision on whether to reappoint him for a new term. So in a very real sense, Quinn is rolling the dice not just personally, but with respect to Lacey’s future representation on the Pinelands Commission.
It is entirely possible that part of Quinn’s thinking is that the determination of ethics complaints against him would be made by the Christie administration. But my view is that a new administration should take a fresh look at the matter, not an ethically-challenged, lame duck administration on its way out the door. I would be guided accordingly.