The Democrats in the 12th-district Assembly race have asked state Attorney General Anne Milgram to investigate the deal that gave one of their opponents the exclusive right to negotiate the Fair Haven cell tower deal with a church and four wireless carriers, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

Incumbent Assemblyman Mike Panter of Shrewsbury and his running mate, Amy Mallet of Fair Haven, “are questioning the compensation package for FSD Enterprises LLC of Red Bank, which is owned by Republican Assembly candidate Declan O’Scanlon and was hired by Fair Haven to negotiate a land lease for the tower and with wireless carriers,” the newspaper reports.

In a letter Tuesday to Milgram, the Democratic duo questioned whether borough officials were aware that FSD would receive a percentage of the first year’s revenue from each carrier in addition to a flat fee of $5,000, which was payable in two installments. Panter said the revenue-sharing portion of the deal could reduce Fair Haven’s estimated annual revenue of $81,000 by almost half.

They’ve also raised conflict-of-interest issues arising from Mayor Mike Halfacre’s role as borough prosecutor in Little Silver, where O’Scanlon is a councilman.

Halfacre says no conflict existed, and that the tower deal negotiated by O’Scanlon brought in far more money than borough officials had anticipated, justifying O’Scanlon’s fees.

He’s also posted, on his blog, a statement “carefully crafted… to be as diplomatic as possible” refuting the Panter-Mallet allegations.

The Democrats contend, according to the Press, that

Halfacre was unaware that O’Scanlon’s company would receive 35 percent of the first year’s revenue from the first wireless carrier and 25 percent of the first year’s revenue from other carriers. They based that on statements Halfacre made in the Asbury Park Press earlier this week.

But in an interview with the Press yesterday,

Halfacre said he misspoke [Wednesday] and was aware that O’Scanlon’s proposal contained the revenue-sharing clause for the first year. The mayor said he was answering questions from a resident who believed that O’Scanlon was also collecting revenues from the wireless carrier and the borough.

“I was less than clear; Declan’s compensation solely comes from the borough of Fair Haven,” Halfacre said. “The borough pays Declan a percentage of the (first year’s) rent from the (wireless) carrier. That has been part of his contract from day one.”

A copy of FSD’s April 5 proposal to Fair Haven, provided by O’Scanlon, contains a breakdown of the fee structure on the third page, which includes the flat fee and the percentage of revenue sharing. It also said that “unless the project successfully produces a wireless project with rent-paying tenants, the total net exposure of Fair Haven Borough is $5,000.”

“We are making roughly $30,000 to $40,000 per year more than expected and it was due to Declan’s ability to make the deal work,” Halfacre said. “Declan paid for himself in one year out of a 30-year contract.”

In their letter to the Attorney General, Panter and Mallet contend that there was a conflict of interest because Halfacre is municipal prosecutor in Little Silver, where O’Scanlon is council president.

O’Scanlon’s running mate, Caroline Casagrande, is Fair Haven’s labor counsel, and until last month, she was employed by the law firm that has the appointment as the borough attorney.

“We got a great result. Where is the conflict of interest?” Halfacre said. “The money will have a huge impact for the residents of Fair Haven, and they’re attacking that.”

On his blog today, Halfacre accuses Panter of having failed to help the borough win state Department of Environmental Protection approval to use another site in town for the tower, and defends O’Scanlon’s role:

Despite the tower being placed on private property, Declan ensured that some of the revenue would flow to the Borough. This arrangement is almost unheard of in any other municipality and is a testament to DeclanÂ’s ability to bring people on two sides of an issue together to work for the common good.

Declan O’Scanlon has a unique set of skills and experience that were an invaluable asset to Fair Haven. He was worth every penny, and the taxpayers will benefit.

The simple fact of the matter is this: Declan O’Scanlon has done more to alleviate the property tax burden on Fair Haven residents in the last six months than Mike Panter has done in four years.

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