E. Greenwich to ask N.J. to look at mayor case

Posted: July 25, 2013

East Greenwich will file a complaint with the state Department of Community Affairs over concerns about a possible conflict of interest the mayor may have with a developer in town, the other four Township Committee members voted unanimously Tuesday night.

Committeeman Jeffrey S. Craig proposed the motion to draft and send a complaint.

The concerns involve a photograph, posted on Facebook, that showed Mayor Fred Grant in a social setting with Ronald Zeck Jr., the developer. The photograph was taken in Sea Isle City, N.J., over the Fourth of July weekend. The committee had said it was concerned about allegations that Grant stayed in Zeck's beach house.

Grant denied staying in the beach house in a letter read aloud by Susan Costill, the clerk, during the public-comment period. Grant was not at Tuesday night's meeting because he was attending a state-ordered class stemming from his April guilty plea to a DUI charge.

In the letter, dated Tuesday, Grant said he had spent the Fourth of July in the emergency room with his wife and stayed in his home until Saturday. On Sunday, he said in the letter, he and his wife went to the Shore to see one of his wife's friends, then stayed Sunday night at that friend's house. He returned Monday to East Greenwich, he said.

"While out with my wife Sunday night, I saw several residents of East Greenwich. At one point, I saw two men from East Greenwich getting their picture taken, and I approached them from behind and put my face in the photo. For people to take that out of context and make false accusations that have repeatedly been thrown around is quite ridiculous," he said in the letter as read aloud.

"Given that I've done nothing wrong, I welcome the committee to do an investigation into this matter to prove my innocence," he said.

Later in the meeting, Zeck approached the microphone. "I'm not going to stand by and have elected officials defame me and my business, which I worked real hard for. . . . I'm not going to stand for it."

He said that if committeemen wanted to apologize "for the false allegations that were made against me and my family, I will listen."

Craig's response was swift: "I'm not going to apologize to you at all. No allegations were made against you by me . . . or any other member of this committee about you, or your family, or your business. You deserve no apology from this committee. That's all I'll say."

Zeck later denied that Grant had stayed at his property.

When Craig spoke later, before proposing that a complaint be filed, he read from two ethics statutes. The committee is ethically obligated, he said, to follow up on accusations of impropriety.

East Greenwich does not have an ethics committee or subcommittee, Craig said, so the state Department of Community Affairs looks into accusations if the township files a complaint.

"I think the appropriate action for us to take tonight is simply to make the motion that a complaint - and . . . we're not making the accusations - that a complaint be made to the Department of Community Affairs suggesting that these accusations of impropriety have been made, and that there are photographs that have been brought to our attention," Craig said.

Committeeman Dale L. Archer seconded the motion after noting that he agreed with Craig's remarks about a complaint's not being the same as an accusation.

Committeeman Thomas Decker asked the solicitor, Raymond J. Zane, for clarification on the complaint and investigation process. Committeeman Samuel N. Giordano Jr. offered no comment during the discussion. Decker and Giordano also voted for the measure.

Contact Jonathan Lai at 856-779-3220, jlai@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.

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