Monmouth tax assessment program probe draws no criminal charges
After a year and a half of investigation, allegations of influence in implementing Monmouth County's pilot property-tax assesssment program reach a dead end in the County Prosecutor's office. But it doesn't necessarily mean case-closed.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni's office announced Monday that no criminal charges are being filed in relation to the Real Property Assessment Demonstration Program (ADP).
Officials added that their conclusion doesn't rule out "administrative action by other agencies," and issued referrals for review to the state Treasurer's and Comptroller's offices, the Office of Ethics Compliance, the state Ethics Commission, and the Monmouth County Tax Board.
ADP sprang from legislation enacted in January 2013, aimed at improving transparency and fairness in the system of assessing the taxable value of homes in the state with the nation's consistently highest property taxes.
The investigation centered around County Tax Administrator Matthew S. Clark, and a close relationship he allegedly maintained with Realty Appraisal Company (RAC) and Realty Data Systems (RDS), and the suspicion that he drove business to the firms.
An unsigned message delivered to Gramiccioni's office, titled "The Monmouth County Concerned Citizen Group Against Unfair Taxation 'Who Fight for People's Rights'" (sic), criticized Clark's involvement, and also took the pilot project to task, claiming that it resulted in higher property taxes than before.
Gramiccioni's office claims to have spent the past 18 months on the matter, issuing 100 subpoenas to state, county and local governments and agencies - including all 53 Monmouth municipalities - financial firms and commercial entities, conducting more than 40 interviews in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Detectives said that they also examined "hundreds of thousands of pages" of public and private records, court orders and legal documents.
They concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges against Clark, RAC, RDS, the company's principals, or any tangentially-related entity or individual. They added that gauging the effect of ADP on property taxes is outside their scope.