Former NJNG employee: Pro-pipeline Pinelands Commissioner who has cast numerous tie-breaking votes, has been voting illegally for years

Written by Jeff Epstein, editor of Citizens’ Media TV

According to a former New Jersey Natural Gas employee, Micah Rasmussen, a pro-pipeline Pinelands Commissioner who has cast the decisive vote in numerous critical decisions, has been voting illegally for at least three years. This is confirmed by the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, Jeff Tittel.

There are fifteen seats on the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, the organization tasked with protecting the vast nature preserve sitting on top of a seventeen trillion (with a “T”) gallon fresh water aquifer. One is federally appointed, seven are appointed by the Governor, and the other seven are appointed by the freeholder boards within each of the seven counties overlapping the New Jersey Pinelands. Only days ago, Governor Christie replaced one of the most environmentally friendly commissioners, Ed Lloyd, with another sitting commissioner, Ed McGlinchey. McGlinchey has been serving as the Camden County commissioner since 2010 and has recently moved to Atlantic County.

However, Rasmussen has discovered the below documents through a public record search of the Atlantic County Clerk’s website. The documents confirm that McGlinchey declared his primary residency to be in Atlantic County since at least 2014, and perhaps as long ago was 2012. McGlinchey‘s Atlantic County home was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and the only way he could receive a state grant in order to repair his home, was to publicly certify that the home was his primary residence at the time.

According to Rasmussen and Tittel, this means that McGlinchey has been serving illegally as a commissioner for years. His votes during that time are therefore null and void. McGlinchey has cast a number of tie-breaking votes, including at least one that approved the construction of a major natural gas pipeline.

Full statements by Rasmussen and Tittel are below.

Full statement by Mika Rasmussen, delivered as a public comment in the December 12 Pinelands Commission meeting

My intention was to come to this morning’s meeting to ask Commissioner McGlinchey when Longport, Atlantic County became his primary residence, since that’s the date on which he became ineligible to serve in the Camden County seat.

What I discovered since then is that we already have the answer, because on December 19, 2014, Commissioner McGlinchey signed this “Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions.” In it, he acknowledges that he “has signed a Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Grant Agreement with the State of New Jersey, which provides for a RREM Grant Award” for his home at 7 Sunset Blvd. in Longport, Atlantic County.

In that RREM Grant Agreement, every RREM grant recipient is required to sign and certify that “at the time of Superstorm Sandy (October 29, 2012), he/she owned and occupied the property as his/her primary residence.”

That Grant Agreement also acknowledges that “upon the existence of any event of default, the state may pursue any remedies against the homeowner including any civil and criminal remedies allowed by law.”

And in fact, the New Jersey Attorney General has criminally charged as many as 86 people for “falsely claiming in their applications that homes they own that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy were their primary residences when Sandy struck.”

I know you aren’t legally eligible for this grant unless it’s your primary residence, because I and many of my neighbors in Waretown were unable to apply for these grants for this very reason–and as a result, we have not been able to rehabilitate our homes, unlike sworn primary residents like Commissioner McGlinchey and his wife.

Now I’m sure that this earlier date of Commissioner McGlinchey’s ineligibility was an oversight. But there is no mistake that this is his signature, it is his property, and it is his certification that he was compliant with all the laws governing the program, including that it was his primary residence. He also certifies in this document that he received the grant.

I do want to stress that this is not me making this determination–both Commissioner McGlinchey and Governor Christie both clearly concluded that he could no longer serve in the Camden County seat since his primary residence became Longport. The ONLY difference is that this happened much sooner than previously understood.

Ironically, we need to thank Governor Christie for his Commission-packing scheme, because otherwise, this residency problem would never have come to light.

This does leave the Commission without a representative who primarily resides in Camden County. And it leaves the Commission in the difficult position of any close votes now being called into serious question. Fortunately, most of the Commission’s votes have not been close, but I can think of at least one in which Commissioner McGlinchey’s vote was the deciding vote, and that’s the SRL. There cannot be any question but that the SRL would not have been approved without Commissioner McGlinchey’s vote.

In order to avoid a long and drawn out process both for Commissioner McGlinchey and the Commission, I respectfully recommend that the matter could be most humanely and easily resolved by rescinding the now-invalid decisions in which Commissioner McGlinchey was the deciding vote. You may remember the hell that former Assemblywoman Stender and her husband went through in this identical situation, with criminal investigations about whether they were ever legally separated in different residences and whether a homeowner could benefit from a grant on a home owned by both spouses.

I’d respectfully call upon Commissioner McGlinchey’s compassionate colleagues to pull back all votes rendered invalid by this, as the fastest and most simply way to put this matter in the rearview mirror.

Thank you.

Full statement by Jeff total, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club

McGlinchey Lied About Residency for Pinelands Pipelines Votes?

Where does Ed McGlinchey live? He resigned from the Pinelands Commission, saying that he moved to Atlantic County and could no longer represent Camden County. Last week he was nominated by Governor Christie to be appointed as a public member of the Commission. Recently discovered documents reveal that he’s been living in Atlantic County for three years under a certified legal address. This means that he was representing, and voting for, Camden County for the last few years while actually living in Atlantic County. While there, he voted to approve both the New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) Southern Reliability Link (SRL) Pipeline and the South Jersey Gas (SJG) Pipeline. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:

“When Ed McGlinchey was voting for pipelines as a Camden County representative in the Pinelands Commission, documents show that he was actually living in Atlantic County. He should not have been allowed to vote push through these pipelines that Christie wants to destroy the Pinelands. McGlinchey either misrepresented himself on his federal RREM application, or should not have been eligible to vote. His votes have jeopardized the future of the Pinelands by helping advance these projects. Based on this information, his nomination to the Commission should be immediately withdrawn and the Commission itself should reopen these pipeline cases that he voted on.

“In those past three years as a Commissioner, McGlinchey voted four times to push through two dangerous and unnecessary pipelines. The New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) Southern Reliability Link Pipeline passed by a vote of 8 to 4. Without him, the pipeline wouldn’t have passed. The SRL would cut through the Forest Preservation Area and bring gas from outside of the Pines to the shore. It violates the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) and will threaten the drinking water of the Pines. We are currently in court challenging this decision and believe that his vote was illegal and the decision to approve the pipeline should not stand.

“During the vote on the South Jersey Gas (SJG) pipeline, McGlinchey was actively participating in the discussion. As he was illegally representing Camden County, this tainted the entire process. This is another pipeline that violates the CMP and should not have been approved. This line is meant to keep the dirty BL England plant, outside of the Pines, running. No communities would benefit from the gas and the line itself would cause devastation in the unique habitat. The vote to approve SJG pipeline should also be remanded back to the Commission because of McGlinchey’s deception.

“It’s outrageous that this was allowed to happen and even more outrageous that last week, Christie tried to replace commissioner Ed Lloyd with McGlinchey. This was another despicable move to side with pipeline companies over the people and environment of the Pinelands. Thanks to the large public outcry and thousands of phone calls, we managed to delay the vote for the pro-pipeline McGlinchey at the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. This means Ed Lloyd stays on the Pinelands Commission for that much longer. People don’t want to see environmental champion Ed Lloyd replaced by someone who will vote to destroy the Pines. Christie is continuing to stack the Commission with his pro-development cronies before Governor-Elect Phil Murphy has a chance to make his nominations.

“Christie has always played games with the Pinelands. He dumped Mark Lohbauer as chair of the Pinelands Commission for political payback, and before that he replaced Robert Jackson who voted against the South Jersey Gas Pipeline for Robert Barr, who was a political crony. The Governor has continued his attack against anyone with an independent voice and independent action. This is another dirty political deal by the Governor to replace someone who cares about the environment with his puppet.

“With his nomination of McGlinchey, Christie has clearly selected a candidate who is more politically connected and in tune to his plans to weaken the Pinelands. We demand that Ed McGlinchey’s nomination for appointment be rescinded and the votes for the SJG and NJNG SRL Pipelines be remanded back to the Commission for a legal and thorough process. Where’s Ed McGlinchey? Trying to take care of special interests and pipelines instead of protecting the Pinelands.”

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