A trial is set to start today involving a former Casino Reinvestment Development Authority employee who said he was fired after taking issue with environmental concerns in agency projects.
George Jones, a longtime project development officer for the CRDA, was fired in 2009 in what officials said at the time was a reorganization that eliminated Jones’ job and one other position.
A lawsuit filed a year later claims that Jones’ comments on agency projects were ignored. He was twice transferred from his position after voicing concerns and was eventually fired, documents state.
The claim filed by Jones, of Avalon, in part centers on the CRDA’s purchase of the former Atlantic City Linen Supply site on North Carolina Avenue. Jones, who was first hired by the authority in 1992, was asked to research any environmental issues surrounding the property’s purchase in 2001 for a future housing project.
Soil samples taken at the property were completed on the outside edges of the site, rather than the center. Jones disputed the testing locations but his concerns were ignored because CRDA officials feared the cost of remediation, documents state. CRDA purchased the property from $1 million in 2001 and provided financial assistance to Atlantic City Linen for moving operations to another location in the city.
Following years of dealing with contamination issues, plans to develop the property for housing never materialized after it became clear that the site needed to undergo significant environmental cleanup, which eventually cost the agency between $6 million and $8 million. In 2003, the CRDA sued Atlantic City Linen in an unsuccessful attempt to recoup cleanup costs.
The cleanup is considered complete and the site is safe for development, receiving soil and ground water clearance from the state Department of Environmental Protection, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said.
Still, no development is slated for the area. CRDA agreed to turn over the property in 2007 through a multi-parcel land swap with the city.
“CRDA remained owner of the property during the cleanup. It can now be deeded to the city,” Butler said in an email. “There are no restrictions on development. However, the land has been identified as open space and appears on the city’s (Recreational and Open Space Inventory).
The CRDA would not comment specifically on the litigation, citing agency policy not to do so. The lawsuit names the agency and its former executive director, Tom Carver.
Employees at the office Jones’ Moorestown-based attorney, Katherine Hartman, have said she will not speak to the press. A phone number at Jones’ Avalon address has been disconnected.
Jones was earning $58,265 a year when he was fired. The case has been assigned to Judge James Savio.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
Follow @ACPressJennifer on Twitter