LACEY – Township Attorney Lauren Staiger refused to comment on the federal criminal indictment returned by a grand jury against her boss, Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore when asked by a reporter and subsequently questioned by a former township committee candidate.
When asked to comment about the indictment at Thursday’s Lacey committee meeting, Lauren Staiger, Esq., an associate of Gilmore’s law firm who represents towns including Lacey and Berkeley, demurred.
“I do not, it’s in his personal capacity, I have no comment,” Staiger told Ocean County Politics.
Staiger also advised Lacey committee members that they did not have to answer questions about Gilmore’s indictment.
The officials who suggested that this indictment solely pertains to Gilmore and not the firm are not entirely accurate. The indictment was not solely about Gilmore’s personal tax situation, although his personal tax troubles were a major component.
While Gilmore was personally charged in the indictment and not any other members of his law firm, the gravamen of the indictment’s accusations related to his control over the law firm of Gilmore & Monahan’s funds. The federal criminal indictment cited, among other things, unpaid payroll taxes for the law firm as well as Gilmore’s alleged use of law firm funds for personal expenses.
“Because he exercised significant control over the law firm’s financial affairs, Gilmore was a person responsible for withholding payroll taxes from the gross salary and wages of the law firm’s employees to cover individual income, Social Security and Medicare tax obligations,” a statement issued yesterday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey read.
“For the tax quarters ending March 31, 2016, and June 30, 2016, the law firm withheld tax payments from its employees’ checks, but Gilmore failed to pay over in full the payroll taxes due to the IRS.”
It remains to be seen what implications the indictment will have for the firm’s numerous public contracts throughout Ocean County, a question likely keeping Republican municipal officials up at night in light of recent developments.
Former Committee Candidate Questions Committee’s Response to Indictment
Former Lacey Township Commitee candidate Ted Kownacki (D – Lanoka Harbor) also questioned Lacey officials about the indictment Thursday night following Staiger’s refusal to comment. Kownacki and running mate Shawn Judson unsuccesfully challenged Republicans Tim McDonald and Mark Dykoff in this past election.
“I’d like to hear from the committee on what your thoughts on the recent indictment of George Gilmore is,” Kownacki asked.
“This just came down late this afternoon,” Lacey Township Mayor Tim McDonald said at the Thursday meeting. “At this point in time all we know is the indictment. We haven’t had a chance to discuss it. We have no comment at this time.”
Gilmore’s firm was recently reappointed to provide legal services for the township at their annual reorganization meeting earlier in January, as they have been in previous years.
Kownacki questioned whether Lacey’s elected officials were concerned about the Gilmore indictment.
“No Corruption Here”
“Is the committee not concerned about our township attorney being accused of the crimes he was accused of?” Kownacki questioned.
McDonald downplayed the indictment, emphasising that while he is concerned about the allegations against Gilmore, he is “innocent until proven guilty.”
“If it’s as bad as it looks, then we’ll make a decision on that. At this point in time he is innocent until proven guilty,” McDonald added.
“And this is all personal stuff, there’s no corruption here whatsoever.”
McDonald said at the Thursday night meeting that he hasn’t spoken with Gilmore since news of the indictment became public, but that he will likely speak with him sometime Friday.
Lacey Township has historically been one of Ocean County’s strongholds of Republican power, with GOP chairman Gilmore’s law firm repeatedly receiving legal services contracts from the all-Republican township government over the years.
The township is one of many in Ocean County that were previously caught up in the Red Bank FBI office’s flurry of subpoenas that were served during the course of the Gilmore investigation.
Lacey is an interesting microcosm of Ocean County politics, as it has brought several of its residents to leadership positions within the county GOP political machinery. Gilmore’s deputy, Barbara Lanuto, who is also a deputy county clerk is from the township and her husband holds a position on the Lacey MUA board.
Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn – who recently left the Lacey governing body for a spot on the county freeholder board – was present earlier in the meeting during a county recycling presentation but departed before questions about Gilmore came up at the meeting.
Quinn’s former running mate, Mark Dykoff (R – Forked River) was also at the dais during the meeting. Dykoff, for his part, recently was hired by the Toms River Township Council’s Republican leadership for a position that was criticized by the council’s Democrat minority.