Red Bank GOP council candidate James A. Coolahan today accused Mayor Pasquale Menna of having leaked information about financial difficulties Coolahan has experienced, in possible violation of attorney ethics rules.
Coolahan made the allegation in an interview this afternoon with redbankgreen, which had been alerted to a Monmouth County Sheriff’s sale listing of Coolahan’s residence by a reader. The reader said she happened upon Coolahan’s name while perusing the list for real estate bargains.
The county lists the sale of Coolahan’s William Street home as having been scheduled for Sept. 24 as a result of a $445,000 judgment.
Further investigation by redbankgreen uncovered a filing for federal bankruptcy court protection made by Coolahan last Friday. Download coolahan_ch_13_petition.pdf
In a telephone interview, Coolahan acknowledged the pendency of bankruptcy and county-court actions, though he said the sheriff’s sale has been postponed to a future date. He said that he is well on his way to getting his finances in order after a long string of medical problems, and added that he is hopeful of saving his home from a mortgage company that is his primary creditor.
He also said he had consulted with Menna, who is an attorney, about his financial situation, and accused Menna of having leaked the information to parties Coolahan didn’t identify.
“I guarantee you got it from somebody who got it from Pat Menna,” Coolahan said. “I haven’t heard it from anybody else. Who the hell peruses the foreclosures, other than real estate people?”
Reached at his Shrewsbury office for comment, Menna, a Democrat, called the accusation an “absolute fucking fallacy. It’s a lie.”
Menna said he had a conversation with Coolahan before Coolahan became a council candidate, and because that conversation was legally privileged, he could not discuss it.
He said, however, that he did not give Coolahan any legal advice, does not represent him, and had “no knowledge of his bankruptcy or anything else, so I don’t know what he’s talking about.
“If that’s what he’s saying, then he’s weirder than I thought he was,” Menna added of the leak accusation. “I certainly did not speak to anyone about any of that stuff.”
During the interview, Coolahan asked redbankgreen where the information had come from. Told that it came from a reader, Coolahan said, “You know who’s my attorney, right? Pat Menna.” Asked whether Menna was his bankruptcy attorney or his foreclosure attorney, Coolahan replied, “Well, I had spoken to him about the whole situation.”
Told that that the news of his bankruptcy and foreclosure hadn’t come to us from Menna, or from someone we knew to have any dealings with Menna, Coolahan insisted it had to have originated with the mayor.
redbankgreen: That would be a major violation of attorney-client privilege.
Coolahan: No kidding. He sent me a letter warning me.
redbankgreen: Warning you what?
Coolahan: That this is public information, and it could come out in the election, and are you sure you want to, you know, be scrutinized like that?
redbankgreen: So you’re convinced it came from him?
Coolahan: Not convinced, but you know what? I haven’t heard it from anybody else. I know a lot of people. Nobody has mentioned that they’ve heard anything about this to me.
Afterward, Menna said he sent Coolahan a letter “to specifically avoid the appearance of what he’s talking about now. I am above reproach when it comes to that, so he can take it wherever he wants, but I never spoke to anybody about it.”
Asked what effects public knowledge of his financial situation might have on his election campaign, Coolahan said he expects none.
“I have nothing to apologize for,” he said.
Coolahan, 46, told us that he had to have three major surgeries on his back, neck and shoulders over 20 months ending last September, and was unable to work for most of that period as a result.
He said his financial circumstances have now changed “dramatically” for the better. He said he’s working as a financial advisor in Edison, and that he is getting his finances back in order.
“Now everything’s fine, and I’ll be able to catch up in the next six months or so,” he said. He said he’s talking to his mortgage holder about repayment plan for back payments, and may not need to go ahead with the bankruptcy.
The court papers indicate that Coolahan filed for bankruptcy ‘pro se,’ meaning without the aid of a lawyer. Records also show that a James Coolahan of the same address filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in 1994. [redbankgreen correction, 10/02/07: the case was a chapter 7 filling not a chapter 11. Bankruptcy Petition #94-35700-WHG, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Trenton.] Details of that case were not available through the court’s online records system.