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Doherty Requests Investigation on Bean

Councilman, however, stands by last week's vote on back house ordinance

Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty this week asked the state Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to conduct an ethics investigation on Councilman Jim Bean after he ignored the advice of the borough's attorney to recuse himself from discussion on a proposed ordinance last week. 

Doherty on Tuesday sent a letter (attached to this story) to DCA Commissioner Richard E. Constable III, requesting a formal investigation into Bean's actions at last week's Borough Council meeting, when he voted on a proposed amendment to the borough's back house ordinance despite several warnings from Borough Attorney Michael DuPont that the councilman, who owns a back house in town, potentially had a conflict of interest and should abstain. 

The governing body adopted the ordinance with a 5-0 vote, but DuPont instructed the borough clerk to strike Bean's vote from the record. 

Bean on Wednesday stood by his assertions at last week's meeting that he had nothing to gain from the ordinance and, therefore, had no conflict of interest. 

"I couldn't be happier [Doherty's] letter was sent to the DCA," Bean said by telephone. 

Bean said he believed the DCA, which he's been in contact with the last two weeks, would clear him of any wrongdoing. 

The ordinance allows residents with back houses, or accessory dwellings, to convert them from seasonal occupancy — usually summer rentals — to year-round occupancy. 

Bean has said that his back house is already occupied year-round and the ordinance doesn't affect him. 

But DuPont on Wednesday, reiterating his stance from last week, said that he advised Bean to recuse himself to remove any possible "appearance of impropriety."

"I have no vendetta against Councilman Bean," DuPont said by telephone. 

Bean, DuPont said, undermined the integrity of last week's vote. 

DuPont added that he wouldn't "necessarily be surprised" if the DCA found Bean committed no violations, either. 

"But it's also important to err on the side of caution," he said. 

Doherty on Wednesday said that he asked the DCA to conduct an investigation because the borough had no type of ethics board. 

"The DCA is the only place to go to ask for an inquiry and determine how to proceed," Doherty said.

Even if Bean didn't understand why he should recuse himself, Doherty said, the councilman should have adhered to DuPont's advice. 

"I've never heard of a governing body member disregard what a borough attorney said regarding conflict of interest," Doherty said. 

Dave Schneck September 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM
" DuPont ........... said that he advised Bean to recuse himself to remove any possible "appearance of impropriety." " " DuPont added that he wouldn't "necessarily be surprised" if the DCA found Bean committed no violations, either. "But it's also important to err on the side of caution," he said. " Yet DuPont took the extraordinary action of instructing the boro clerk to strike Mr. Bean's vote from the record! Where does he get the power to do that? This affair might merit a state investigation, but not of Mr. Bean.
Fidel Ortega September 27, 2012 at 11:56 AM
I could understand if Bean was the only person in town with a back house, but lots of residents in Belmar have back houses. Does the Councilman pay local taxes? Does that bar him from voting on that kind of legislation too? This is a show being put on by the mayor & the borough attorney.
Bobby Edwards September 27, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Bean sounds like the worst kind of elected official: voting to make himself money and ignoring the rules. He should resign.
JD September 27, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Politics 101 by the Mayor... very sad... and the councilman doesn't have to take the advice of the township attorney... please note... appearance of impropriety is NOT conflict of interest. Bean does not have a conflict of interest and should vote in the matter.
Ben Dover September 27, 2012 at 07:37 PM
His vote wasn't even needed. The ordinance benefits all citizens. Next time someone's road is going to get fixed, I hope they recuse themselves since they will obviously benefit? People are so petty. If someone had to recuse every time there was the hint of impropriety, no one in NJ or DC could EVER Vote!!! Can you say Cornhusker KICKBACK?
Beryl Cusic September 28, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Why? What did he do that makes you think that he would make any kind of money?Please elaborate.
Janet September 28, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I am confused. Does the township attorney have any power to do that? Who elected him? There must be some political game being played here.
Beryl Cusic September 28, 2012 at 06:21 PM
You know, I thought that the most recent administration was going to be one to lead Belmar into the 21st century and make decisions that would benefit ALL citizens. But what have they actually done? lets see, opened a wine bar and minigolf course, built more store fronts in a town that can't support the storefronts that we already had and hasdone nothing to lower the property tax. ANd while the mayor is touting how all this is good for Belmar, asking for an investigation on a council member who voted on a ordinance that he does not personally benefit from is a little bizarre and I to wonder if the borough attorney has the authority to strike a vote. Maybe that should be investigated.
Janet September 28, 2012 at 07:45 PM
I am sure it has nothing to do with him being the lone guy from the other party. It's pretty funny really to hear they all voted yes but his vote was somehow illegal. Wasn't it just a few months ago that the Mayor was guilty of breaking election laws? Payback??
Mr. Jefferson September 28, 2012 at 09:20 PM
What concerns me is the councilman's decision to simply disregard the advice of the Borough Attorney. It seems kind of reckless and self serving. Borough attorney's are retained to ensure everything is done legally for the protection of the town. If the councilman truly has the best interests of Belmar in mind, he would listen to the advice of counsel.
Janet September 28, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Mr. Jefferson - on what basis did the party pal attorney have to advise him to recuse himself. Was there any case law cited that shows it was a potential problem? Absent solid facts, this is just more political posturing and waste of time since the vote passed unanimously. Stop with the nonsense.
Watchdog September 29, 2012 at 01:42 PM
This is very reminiscent of the mob-like mentality and strong arm tactics of other local governments, such as Manasquan. Council there teamed up to chase off Don Grasso. Borough employees claimed harassment. Attorney issued statements and directives "authorized by a majority of Council" who just all happened to be same party.

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