W. Deptford/Sunoco tax case settlement set aside over Open Public Meetings Act violation

A tax settlement between West Deptford and Sunoco has been set aside because of an Open Public Meetings Act violation.

A Gloucester County judge ruled today that the town will have to conduct a hearing that complies with the state’s Sunshine laws in order to approve its tax appeal settlement with Sunoco.

A resident, Gary Kuehnapfel, had argued that the West Deptford mayor and committee members on Jan. 17 and March 1 violated the Act in dealing with tax appeal litigation involving Sunoco’s largely disused refinery there.

That dispute had spurred the introduction of legislation to prevent a corporation from pocketing tax appeal refunds without performing environmental cleanups first.

Shortly after the introduction of the bill, Sunoco and West Deptford settled for $15 million in the form of bonds that would go into a remediation fund.

But Kuehnapfel went to court alleging that the settlement was reached in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.

Attorney John Trimble, who represented Kuehnapfel, said “It shows the little guy can win.’’ His client, who lives next to the refinery site, “is offended” that the township is now paying money to a company that “has not been a good neighbor for many years,’’ Trimble said.

A Sunoco spokesman said the company would have no comment.

West Deptford officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

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  W. Deptford/Sunoco tax case settlement set aside over Open Public Meetings Act violation