Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tax Board Conflict Likely To Continue

Former Assemblyman Michael Panter will continue to present property tax appeals to the Monmouth County Tax Commission, which is presided over by his business partner Daniel Kelly.

The Asbury Park Press picked up the story of this obvious conflict, which was first raised here at MMM last week.

Wayne Pominowski, a Republican member of the Tax Commission boycotted the recent reorganization meeting of the board in protest on Kelly's anticipated elevation to president and Panter's advertising campaign looking for clients to represent before the board. Pominowski issued a statement which said in part,

"In these times of widespread skepticism concerning the openness and fairness of government agencies . . . the board is doing itself a disservice by elevating to its presidency someone who does not see the conflict inherent in his own advertisements,"

In an apparent recognition of the conflict, Panter has removed the link on his law firm's website to the site of his partnership with Kelly.

Kelly told the Asbury Park Press that he would recuse himself from cases that Panter represents and that there is no reason for him to step down from the commission.

The question should not be, "is there a reason to step down?" Rather, is there a reason for Kelly to serve on the board? should be the question.

Kelly's bio indicates no expertise in real estate appraisals or property tax assessments. What was the criteria by which Governor Corzine appointed him, other than his relationship with Panter, who was a Democratic member of the state legislature at the time of the appointment.

For Kelly, the $22,000 he receives for serving as president of the commission, and the state pension that goes with it, are reason enough to serve. But are Monmouth County tax payers best served by the partner of a politician serving in such a capacity? Is there no one more qualified without such conflicts available to serve?

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