The politically connected law firm representing Red Bank’s mayor and council is stepping away from a tax court case involving Verizon Inc. because the firm’s lobbying arm represents the telecom giant in Trenton, redbankgreen has learned.
Tom Hall, one of two attorneys from the firm of Pringle, Quinn & Anzano in Belmar, says he learned of the conflict of interest last Monday night, just moments after giving a public update on the tax court case in which he had put a proposed settlement with Verizon before the council for approval.
The settlement would have cut Verizon’s taxes on the property by $15,000 in each of 2006 and 2007.
The council, which appeared ready to instead fight the the case in court, tabled any decision until a future date.
Hall tells redbankgreen that he first learned of the conflict from law partner Kenneth Pringle, who is also the mayor of Belmar.
Hall said Pringle didn’t know until Monday night that Hall was involved in litigation with one of the firm’s lobby clients.
Pringle made no mention of the conflict at last week’s council session. redbankgreen has not heard back from Pringle despite repeated efforts to reach him since the middle of last week.
Mayor Pasquale Menna told us this morning that he just learned of the development by phone from Hall. He said he was “perturbed, but I can understand where the error could happen” in a large firm “with a lot of things going on.”
“Frankly, they should have known about it, but they’ve corrected it,” said Menna, who is also an attorney.
Menna said the proposed settlement “is tainted in a sense,” so the council will now have to select an outside attorney to pursue the matter in tax court. “It’s back to the drawing board,” he said.
Technically, Pringle is the borough attorney, though as is typical in the industry, he often delegates work to his partner, Hall. Both attorneys sometimes appear at council meetings, as they did a week ago, but the town pays for the attendance of only one, Menna said.
Records on file with the state Elections Law Enforcement Commission include a report for the second quarter of this year in which the lobbying arm of Pringle, Quinn & Anzano lists Verizon among its clients.
redbankgreen was unable to learn if Pringle, Quinn & Anzano represents Verizon as a law client.