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Township Committee Approves Appeal in Fulton Bank Lawsuit

West Deptford officials give attorney Mark Cimino the green light to file an appeal following the dismissal of Fulton Bank loan lawsuit.

When it comes to the Fulton Bank lawsuit, township redevelopment attorney Mark Cimino is far from throwing in the towel. And apparently, so is the township committee, which voted unanimously to allow Cimino to file an appeal—contingent on the premise that attorney’s fees can not exceed $10,000.

The motion passed unanimously at Thursday night's township committee meeting. Committeewoman Donna Szymborski was absent. 

While the committee sailed through most of the agenda, the members entered into closed session to discuss the recently dismissed lawsuit and various issues relating to the finance department. After emerging more than an hour later, Committeeman Samuel Cianfarini motioned for the appeal, second by Deputy Mayor Sean Kilpatrick. 

“We have millions of dollars with no confirmation of what its true use was,” said Cimino. 

No clear paper trail

A lawsuit the township filed in September contended that Fulton Bank had not provided a full accounting of how about $4 million of a $10 million loan for construction at RiverWinds was spent.

“The public interest requires that they be held accountable for not knowing the actual dispensation of these funds," Cimino said, referring to Fulton Bank.  

As litigation progressed, Cimino said it was apparent that Fulton Bank had no clear paper trail for funds it distributed. Cimino explained the bank’s records consist of one sheet descriptions, but with no invoices. 

Furthermore, Cimino found that Fulton Bank had distributed funds by depositing money directly into the developer’s account at Park Bank, instead of issuing a two- or three-party check to ensure the money was used for its proper designation. 

“The bank undertook the duty of dispensing the money properly and they have no records to fully substantiate where the money went,” said Cimino. “It’s our position that they had a responsibility to handle those public funds with care.”   

Christopher Gibson, an attorney for Fulton Bank, had filed a motion to dismiss the litigation, as well as a motion to sanction Cimino for filing a “frivolous lawsuit.” Gibson cited in the motion for Cimino’s sanction that the lawsuit against Fulton Bank was politically motivated.

On Friday, Nov. 16, state Superior Court Judge Anne McDonnell dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the township was bound by the original guaranty. However, McDonnell denied both a motion to seek attorney’s fees from the township and the motion to sanction Cimino. 

At the time, Cimino stated that he disagreed with the judge’s ruling, but would have to consult with the township committee before pursuing an appeal. 

Cimino maintained late Thursday night that the township voted unanimously to allow him to file an appeal, making it a bipartisan effort.  

'Throwing good money after bad' 

Contacted late Thursday, Gibson, who did not attend the meeting, said he was "surpised and diappointed" by the township's decision to appeal. 

"I think Judge McDonnell had a tremendous amount of information and briefs from the parties. She read a contract that's fairly straightforward and has no ambiguity and cannot be construed that they have a claim," Gibson said. "I don’t see how anyone could seriously believe when you read that agreement that Judge McDonnell got it wrong.

"I think they’re throwing good money after bad, and I think it’s unfortunate for the people of West Deptford and Fulton Bank, but we’ll respond when we see their papers."

Gibson added he's confident Fulton Bank will prevail in the appeal. 

The township committee initially voted to allow Cimino to continue with litigation against Fulton Bank on Sept. 6. Cimino contended the suit could potentially recoup close to $4 million of the $10 million loan, which was intended for the development of RiverWinds. During a PowerPoint presentation at the September meeting, he cited a $1,200 disbursement for K-Swiss shoes and a $9,000 disbursement for printing and letterhead, as examples of what he believed to fall outside of the umbrella of the township’s guaranty.

For more on the Fulton Bank lawsuit, read:

  • Cimino: $4.5 Million Disappeared in RiverWinds Golf and Tennis Project
  • Democrats: RiverWinds Accusations Based on 'Thinnest of Facts'
  • West Deptford Committee OKs Court Petition on RiverWinds Loan Info
  • West Deptford Files Court Petition on RiverWinds Loan Documents
  • Former Township Official Calls RiverWinds Loan Inquiry 'Politically Motivated'
  • Judge Dismisses West Deptford's Lawsuit Against Fulton Bank

(Patch Regional Editor Tim Zatzariny Jr. contributed to this report.)

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Tom Stanton December 08, 2012 at 02:49 PM
There is a need for clarification. There are those who complain that we pay legal fees to verify that the tax payer's money was spent correctly in regards to the Riverwinds project, but had no problem paying an extraordinary amount of legal fees to keep the Sunoco tax appeal unsettled for years. How much of the tax payer's money went to those lawyers? There are those who complain about spending up to $10,000 in an effort to verify that millions of tax payer's dollars was spent correctly, yet were all for a 2% raise to the township employees because they "deserve it". Can anyone shed some light on how much 2% increase in salaries will cost the tax payers of West Deptford? It certainly sounds like it is D vs. R and not what is best for West Deptford. The change that was voted for in 2011 is certainly working for the better of the township unlike the change that was voted for in 2008 for the better of the country. May I also remind you that the vote was unanimous to pursue the appeal. That means that our committeewoman with a "CPA" agreed to pursue the appeal in order to do what is best for the township as well.
David Sileo December 08, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Democrat Republican Whig Party,doesn't matter where you sit. If it is ok for the bank to just to dole out loan money like giving the guy in the next cubby coffee money, look out! There was plain and simple shoddy book keeping and for that Fulton needs to be accountable and produce and exam action. This despite judge O Donnel's ruling whose in the past has not been in the best interests of the townships residents. One comment that precedes this one says "you wanted change you have it now" to paraphrase. Well your damn right we have a committee that finally is working together for the good of the residents. You are right sit, that us change! They are 2 for 2 with great bipartisan workmanship on the Sunoco/Firetruck settlement and the initiaitve to properly settle the books in OUR money. I believe the intent here is genuine and an effort to not repeat the past and become better stewards if our assets and town. Through all of this the
David Sileo December 08, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Sorry for typos. Iphoneosis........
Proud D December 08, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Personally, I have no problem spending some money on legal fees to verify that the tax dollars were spent correctly. But, we're not talking about $10,000. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. For what? Nothing to this point. Nothing that benefits the township at least. For Sam, Ray and Denny it's gotten some juicy headlines but it's gotten nothing for the town. Not one penny. Should that change and should the town benefit from this "investigation" I will be the first to admit that it was money well spent. But until then, I see this as nothing more than an attempt to get headlines. Here's a question for everyone, how do you think Sam and Ray would have reacted if the Docimo administration paid Mike Angelini north of $200,000 to do the same work that Cimino has done? Sam's head would have exploded.
Tom Stanton December 08, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Obviously we won't know if it is money well spent until the appeal is heard in front of the court. Where there is smoke, there is fire. The question is, will the court truly hear the case, or simply just toss it away? There must have been enough information presented in the closed door meeting for the committee to vote unanimously to pursue the appeal. From what I have seen, Mrs. DiCarlo will not vote with the rest of the committee just to simply get along. As far as Mr. Angelini, he was paid for 22 years of service that many people would consider to be nothing beneficial to this town. How many years, and how many hundreds of thousands of dollars, did he get paid to do nothing for the Sunoco tax appeals? On top of all that, he is still trying to line his pockets with a pension paid for by the tax payers for his contracted work that he claims was done as an employee of the town.

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