Gordon Dahl, the man who was ousted from his position as head of the South Jersey Economic Development District earlier this year, has found a new job in Egg Harbor City.
Egg Harbor City Council last week voted to hire Dahl to oversee the administration of a $383,000 grant that will be used to build affordable senior housing at 145-147 Philadelphia Ave. Dahl’s contract is for an amount not to exceed $15,300, said Jodi Kahn, the city’s chief financial officer.
“We’re not going to compare what’s happened with Gordon in other organizations to the work he’s done in Egg Harbor City. That’s not our business to know,” said Councilwoman Betty Schoenstein. “We’ve never had any doubt that Gordon could finish the project.”
Since Dahl was removed from the SJEDD, the agency discovered that more than $390,000 was missing from a revolving loan fund. The money likely went to funding the agency’s operating expenses and costs associated with the NextGen Aviation and Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township.
Under Dahl’s leadership, the district racked up more than $600,000 in debt in the NextGen park project. Officials have also discovered that another $147,770 is still owed to a company that manufactured an air traffic control simulator in use at Atlantic Cape Community College despite the fact that the district obtained grants that should have covered that expense.
But Schoenstein said none of that was taken into consideration when she and seven other members of City Council voted to hire Dahl to finish out the Egg Harbor City project because Dahl has never disappointed the city before. Councilman Cliff Mays cast the lone dissenting vote against hiring Dahl. He said that even if Dahl didn’t mismanage funds, the doubt surrounding his work is troubling.
“I don’t think the city should hire anyone in that position until the issue is cleared up,” Mays said. “Nothing was put on the table at all to show that any questions were asked. I know what I’ve read in The Press (of Atlantic City). That’s what I have to go on.”
Dahl, who could not be reached Monday, developed plans for the project dubbed Renaissance Plaza while he was executive director of the SJEDD. The district had planned to build the housing units and sell them for $134,900 each. But after the SJEDD’s board reviewed the project plans earlier this month, it voted to end its involvement with the project, calling it a financial risk that strayed from the district’s mission.
SJEDD interim Executive Director Steve O’Connor said the district still owns the Philadelphia Avenue property and is working on transferring it to Egg Harbor City, which is considering other potential developers for the property.
Council President Ed Dennis, who is also the chairman of the city’s redevelopment committee, made the recommendation to hire Dahl at council’s June 14 meeting.
“What his problems was with them, that’s his problems with them,” Dennis said in a video of the meeting available on the city’s website. “He has done nothing but positive things for us here in Egg Harbor City.”
The city named a road for Dahl within the past year in recognition of the work he’s done for the city, Schoenstein said.
Dennis did not return calls on Monday.
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