Marlboro will not be compensated for damages it claimed it sustained because of corrupt developers and local public officials, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano dismissed a lawsuit in which township attorneys alleged Marlboro was hurt by bribery and other foul play between past officials and developers.
Pisano said the township’s complaint, filed in October, failed to name a specific “injury to its business or property” under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
“Marlboro has not pled any financial loss arising from defendants’ conduct,” Pisano ruled.
“Rather, Marlboro emphasizes that defendants’ conduct defrauded the township and its citizens, deprived it of its “intangible right to honest services’ of its employees, and caused a diminution of public confidence.
“These types of injuries do not affect any of Marl-boro’s financial interests in business or property,” Pisano said.
The defendants named in the lawsuit included former Mayor Matthew Scannapieco, Planning Board member Stanley Young, Municipal Utilities Chairman Richard Vuola and Western Monmouth Utilities Authority Executive Director Frank Abate.
Developers Anthony and Joseph Spalliero, who are father and son, Bernard and Steven Meiterman, who are brothers, and Edward Kay, a business partner, also were named.
“I think that it’s the right outcome,” said Vincent Manning, the attorney representing Kay, the Meitermans and several of their companies. “I don’t think that Marlboro Township’s attorney could have ever proven any damages or injury to Marlboro based on what they had alleged in the complaint.
“I think once they serve their time . . . they paid their debt, so to speak, and that should be the end of it,” Manning said of the Meitermans and Kay, adding that his clients are awaiting sentencing and are likely to serve jail time. “They look forward to having a peaceful relationship with Marlboro Township, especially the new mayor and the new administration.”
All of the public officials have either pleaded guilty or been convicted of accepting or passing bribes. All of the developers except Joseph Spalliero have pleaded guilty to bribing officials; he has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
The former officials allegedly accepted more than $300,000 in bribes from real estate developers between 1997 and 2004. The township asked to recoup at least the bribes, and also asked for the opportunity to recoup the officials’ salaries, according to court papers.
The impacts of the corruption included increased development, which, in turn, led to increased expenses for public services including roads, schools and police, argued former Mayor Robert Kleinberg, who led the charge to pursue the suit.
Scannapieco’s lawyer, Douglas J. Katich, who filed a motion to dismiss the case in February, said he was pleased with the decision. He added he hoped the ruling marked the end of litigation with the township.
“(The judgment) doesn’t prevent (Marlboro) from attempting to bring similar claims in state court to get a proverbial second bite at the apple,” Katich said. “I caution them to think hard about it because this time we will seek sanctions for prosecuting frivolous claims.”
Mayor Jonathan Hornik said he has been working with other litigants to dismiss lawsuits in the township as a cost-saving measure, but this was a case the township had been pursuing. He would not comment on his thoughts about the ruling or the merits of the complaint, which was filed before he took office in January.
The mayor also would not comment on whether the township will pursue the case further. He added the township’s counsel would only be paid if monies were awarded.
“I wasn’t looking to have (the lawsuit) dismissed,” Hornik said. “We’re going to take a careful look at the decision, and we will decide how to proceed accordingly.”