By JOHN T. WARD
The McLaren Street residence of borough Administrator Stanley Sickels has been listed for a Monmouth County sheriff’s sale August 29 to resolve a previously unreported foreclosure and bankruptcy, redbankgreen has learned.
Sickels, the most powerful employee at town hall, and his wife, Donna, filed for chapter 7 protection from creditors on March 31, according to records on file with the federal bankruptcy court in Trenton. The bankruptcy petition followed a foreclosure action on the couple’s home, according to the filing.
The petition listed liabilities of $1.23 million, with just over $1 million of that in mortgage debt. The couple also listed almost $41,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service for three years of income taxes. Total assets were $683,000, according to the filing.
Sickels — who has worked for the borough for 35 years — wears multiple hats, and collects two salaries, a situation that has often rankled critics. In addition to his job as administrator, he serves as the construction and fire official and purchasing agent.
In the bankruptcy filing, Sickels listed his 2015 income, before deductions, as $182,386. Donna Sickels, who’s employed by the local school district, had income of just under $33,000, it says.
In their chapter 7 petition, the couple agreed to surrender their home, which court records say is worth $477,000. But Sickels told redbankgreen that he’s still hoping to work out a settlement with the mortgage holder that will allow him to keep the house.
Sickels said his financial woes were personal and unrelated in any way to his government job, and arose as a result of charitable giving and spiraling costs arising from a refinancing.
The bankruptcy case was discharged on July 14, court records show. Under chapter 7, most debts are eliminated from the record and debtors get to keep unsecured assets such as cars and furniture.
Monmouth County tax records indicate the house is 2,100 square feet on a less than a quarter of an acre, and was acquired by the couple in 1993. Built in 1895 for $2,700, it previously belonged to Sickels’ parents.
As part of the case, Sickels filed acknowledgements that he had completed a required one-day internet class in personal finance management.
From a report published Wednesday by the Asbury Park Press:
Mayor Pasquale Menna said that as soon as the borough became aware of Sickels’ financial problems, it held meetings with the town’s auditor to ensure the administrator had not been involved in any improper activity. No such activity was found, the mayor said.
“We found that there were no issues that have impacted his ability as borough administrator,” Menna said.
Asked what impact the bankruptcy might have on Sickels’ job, Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer , a Republican, told the Press “none whatsoever,” the newspaper reported. But independent Councilwoman Cindy Burnham told the Press that the situation prompted her to question whether Sickels should continue to serve as administrator:
“If you can’t keep your household afloat, how can you run a town?” asked council President Cindy Burnham, who said she’s previously advised Sickels to step down. “How can you make good financial decisions for the borough if you can’t make good financial decisions at home?”
Here’s the bankruptcy petition: Sickels ch 7 filing 033116