Friday, June 8, 2007

NJ governors too quick to tee up golf project?

Senior officials in both the McGreevey and Codey administrations signed off on a $212M loan for the EnCap golf communities project in the Meadowlands, even though subordinates warned that the cut-rate financing was a risk for taxpayers and bad environmental policy, according to a highly critical report in today's Bergen Record.

The EnCap loan "will not meet the Financing Program's normal creditworthiness standards," Samuel Wolfe, a former assistant DEP commissioner, wrote in a November 2004 memo to his superiors. Still, the state signed off and today the project is teetering on the brink of collapse.

"The developer is months behind in payments to its subcontractors, and on May 17 the state Attorney General's Office found EnCap in default of the terms of its deal with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. EnCap has until next Friday to submit a revised landfill cleanup budget -- or else the project could be canceled, " The Record reports

Despite the warnings from Wolfe and other ranking state bureaucrats, EnCap landed a deal "brimming with lucrative concessions while offering spotty security for taxpayers," the paper reports. How did such a risky venture get so "fast tracked" that, at one point, 10 employees of the DEP's Division of Water Quality were diverted to work full time on the developer's loan application? The Record points the finger at former Governor Jim McGreevey and his relationship with the powerhouse Democratic law firm DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Wisler whose attorneys navigated the project around a number of significant institutional and environmental shoals.

An anonymous former administration official is quoted as saying: "McGreevey didn't really care what the loan was about. He cared who was getting it. For reasons obvious to everybody, DeCotiis projects got top priority.''

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