Bill Meyer says the borough shouldn’t negotiate over the former borough hall until it’s investigated the sale to Kids Bridge eight years ago. Below right: a copy of a business entity status report he says raises questions about the deal. (Click to enlarge)
Borough officials remained mum this week on the status of negotiations begun earlier this year over the former borough hall at 51 Monmouth Street, which the Community YMCA is trying to sell for $2.55 million.
But local attorney and gadfly Bill Meyer is calling on the mayor and council to suspend the negotiations and embark on a comprehensive investigation into the one-dollar deal that led to the the Y taking possesion of the now 116-year-old structure, which is home to the organization’s Children’s Cultural Center.
Among the elements of the transaction he wants probed, Meyer tells redbankgreen, is whether then-Mayor Ed McKenna had a conflict of interest in the transaction. At this week’s bimonthly council meeting, Meyer gave out copies of a nonprofit corporation status report from the New Jersey Secretary of State’s office showing that McKenna was the vice president of the Children’s Cultural Center at the time three ordinances enabling the transaction were passed by the council.
Pressed on whether he was accusing McKenna of a conflict, Meyer replied, “I’ not saying anything about that. But I will say this: I don’t like the appearance of it.”
McKenna, in response, called Meyer a politically motivated “destructive individual” who hadn’t done his homework. The records will show, McKenna says, that he recused himself from discussions about the sale because of his widely known ties to the buyer.
“There was never any secret that I helped found the Children’s Cultural Center,” he told us. “That was on the front pages of the newspapers. All he had to have done was two minutes worth of research and he would have found that out.”
McKenna said he didn’t vote on any of the ordinances that led to the April, 2000 transfer of the building to Kids Bridge, a nonprofit later folded into the Y’s Children’s Cultural Center. “Just check the minutes. I didn’t vote on any of those ordinances, nor would I have,” he said.
Under Red Bank’s form of government, the mayor casts votes only on matters in which the council deadlocks.
“Everything in this was completely above board,” he said. “If Mr. Meyers had done just five minutes worth of research, he could have found that out.”
McKenna said a key reason building went to Kids Bridge was because it had agreed to allow the Relief Engine Company, which is housed in an attached structure facing on Drummond Place, to remain. “There were other people who were interested in taking the building, but they all wanted the fire department out,” he said.
McKenna said he’s “one-thousand percent confident” that an investigation, should there be one, would find no taint in the deal.
Meyer, a solo-practice attorney who has sued the borough several times over development approvals, also says that McKenna “signed all the ordinances” that enabled the sale.
Meyer also wants the council to investigate what he and others say is the absence of a document that was supposed to have been filed with the deed, one that would have reflected the conditions, detailed in the ordinances, under which the building might revert to the town.
“It appears as if the transfer was unlawful and should be voided, and the property should automatically go back to the town,” he said.
Borough attorney Tom Hall said he and the council cannot comment on the issue as a matter of current or potential litigation. He briefed the mayor and council on the status of the negotiations behind closed doors on Monday night.
The Y contends the borough owes it more than $500,000 for its share of agreed-upon costs related to shoring up the firehouse.