The Bergen County Republicans are seizing on the joint federal and state investigation of a huge development project gone awry in the Meadowlands.
The troubled EnCap project would have included 2,500 residences and two golf courses before it was shut down by the Meadowlands Commission last month. The Bergen Record reported that, post bankruptcy, the project is facing a corruption investigation by U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and State Attorney General Anne Milgram.
Republican freeholder candidates Paul Duggan, Chris Calabrese and Jeff Heller seized on the news to tie two of their Democratic opponents – Bernadette McPherson and David Ganz — in with EnCap’s troubles (Freeholder Vernon Walton, of Englewood, hasn’t been in office long enough to be charged with the same). Moreover, the Republicans criticized the entire Democratic Party for complicity in facilitating loans to the project, questioning the Bergen County Impovement Authority’s (BCIA) loan of $103 million to EnCap.
Duggan questioned why the Democratically controlled freeholder board didn’t question the BCIA’s role, noting that BCIA attorney and BCDO counsel Dennis Oury got $50,000 in fees as part of the deal.
“The freeholders never said word one about the BCIA’s role, but I hope the U.S. Attorney will be looking into that agency,” he said.
The controversy over EnCap also helped lead to McPherson’s defeat as mayor of Rutherford. Her Republican opponent, John Hipp, was a critic of the project.
"When (McPherson)was mayor of Rutherford, she was pushing the project as something good for her community when she knew she signed a bad deal for Rutherford,” said Calabrese.
Bergen County Democratic Organization spokesman Bill Maer called the attacks “typical campaign posturing,” and noted that the EnCap project began under the Republican Whitman administration.
“The Republicans own EnCap. They created it,” said Maer. “Their administration, their legislature passed the enabling legislation. It’s a Republican issue….. They built it to what they wanted. Now it’s easy to point fingers, but they created the present situation.”