Earlier this week, Ocean Township Councilman Robert Acerra sent a letter to Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni requesting an investigation into possible criminal activity allegedly perpetrated by a member of the Ocean Township Council.
The prosecutor’s office said it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation.
In a recent lawsuit filed against the township by an ex-employee, allegations were made citing tax fraud in the township. It alleges that township CFO Stephen Gallagher and council members attempted to have individuals removed from the property tax rolls.
“Our default position should always be to take allegations such as these extremely seriously and investigate accordingly,” Acerra said in a prepared statement.
At Thursday’s Township Council meeting, Gallagher gave a brief and emotional public statement about the allegations of tax fraud.
Gallagher said he “vehemently denies in the strongest possible manner” any allegations in the lawsuit.
“They are utterly and blatantly false,” he said.
The lawsuit and Acerra’s request for the investigation come just ahead of the May 14 Township Council election, which has Acerra and Mayor Christopher Siciliano running on separate tickets.
On May 10 when contacted about the allegations Siciliano said the whole thing is “a political stunt.”
As soon as he was made aware of the lawsuit Siciliano said he immediately apprised fellow council members and reminded them that these lawsuits “are privileged and confidential.”
“You are not supposed to go out on the media and talk about them. That goes without saying. Rob stepped out of line by even calling the prosecutor,” he said.
Siciliano said the township is doing its own serious investigation and that the prosecutor would be called in if any problems are found.
“Our investigation will show any wrongdoing and we will take it from there. Our insurance carrier will make sure we cover everything,” he said.
Acerra said in a statement that he is coming forward with this information to learn if any fraud was committed and that he believes this information “would not have seen the light of day had I not done so.”
“We we need to swiftly learn if any of my colleagues on the Council engaged in criminal behavior by committing property tax fraud, as alleged in the lawsuit,” Acerra said in a statement. “I am the lone watchdog that Ocean residents have on the council right now, as evidenced by this particularly disturbing series of events.”