TRENTON – The mayor of West Deptford defended his town’s handling of tax refunds with Sunoco after the Senate president asked for an Attorney General’s Office investigation.
Mayor Raymond Chintall said today there is nothing improper about the town’s refunding approximately $13 million to the company nor is it connected to the company’s donation of $750,000 to help West Deptford purchase two fire trucks.
Sweeney sent a letter this week to the AG’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection, asking for an investigation into whether Sunoco and West Deptford sidestepped a new law Sweeney sponsored.
The law mandates that any tax refund must go to DEP and be used to clean up the contaminated property, with anything left over then going to the property owner.
Chintall said that the township followed the advice of counsel and appraisers that a direct tax refund to Sunoco predated the new law and is permissible.
“This is purely political action by the Senator due to the upcoming election,” said Chintall. “Nothing was said up until a few days ago, before the election.”
West Deptford’s five-member committee is 3-2 Republican, but the township had a Democratic majority for many years, he explained.
“What’s being lost in all of this,’’ Chintall said, is that he wants to ensure residents know they are being responsible stewards of the land.
There is nothing to indicate Sunoco is not following DEP guidelines and monitoring the Eagle Point refinery, Chintall said.
Chintall said in an emailed statement that “Sen. Sweeney discourages businesses in New Jersey that do not meet his expectations of cooperation and assistance.”
Earlier this year, Sweeney and fellow Third District lawmaker Assemblyman John Burzichelli expressed concerns over the prospect of Sunoco collecting the tax refund and not remediating the site off Route 295 that once was responsible for thousands of area jobs but now has a much smaller work force.
In his letter to the AG, Sweeney said that “Town officials were well aware that, if they followed the law and escrowed the $13.1 million with NJDEP as required by…legislation, Sunoco was prepared to rescind its ‘charitable contribution’ of at least $750,000,” Sweeney wrote to the AG and DEP.
But both the mayor and Sunoco deny that allegation.