Vineland City Council will hold a special meeting next week to determine whether to end, or at least to temporarily halt, the Four Corners financial investigation.
Part of the reason is that the auditing firm and law office hired in the investigation have quit, City Councilman Paul Spinelli said.
The Burlington County auditing company of Holman Frenia Allison and the Essex County law firm of Ambrosio and Tomczak submitted letters of resignation within the past few days, he said.
No exact reason for the firms quitting the investigation was immediately available.
Spinelli said he believes one reason involves the strife between City Council and Mayor Ruben Bermudez. He said that likely was making it difficult for the two firms to “come up with a clean investigation.”
City Council and Bermudez are at odds on a number of issues. Bermudez is also suing City Council over its decision to overturn his removal of Richard Tonetta as city solicitor.
Spinelli said the municipal government “house is in such disarray” that City Council has enough to “worry about within the city and not with what’s happening” with the Landis Theater Performing Arts Center. The theater is part of the investigation.
According to a notice from the City Clerk’s Office, City Council will hold two closed meetings at 4:45 p.m. in the municipal building Wednesday. City Council then will hold a special public meeting, estimated to begin at 5:30 p.m., the notice reads. City Council plans to vote on whether to “suspend the special forensic audit services” related to the investigation and to “re-evaluate City Council’s investigation by June 30,” it continues.
The $40 million Four Corners project was to turn the corner of Landis and East avenues into a sort of economic gateway into the downtown business district. The only part of the project to be completed involved the $10 million renovation of the Landis Theater and a restaurant called Mori’s. That work was done with about $4 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds, which come from state sales tax revenue.
The previous City Council began investigating the work after hearing concerns from residents about how the UEZ money was spent. That City Council never released any information indicating wrongdoing with the finances.
Holman Frenia Allison and Ambrosio and Tomczak worked with the former City Council on the Four Corners probe. The firms were subsequently rehired by the current City Council to again perform a financial investigation.
A month ago, City Council voted to amend a $25,000 contract it awarded to Holman Frenia Allison in November. Holman Frenia Allison was to receive $12,500, and a new contract for the same amount of money was awarded to Ambrosio and Tomczak.
City officials said the move was simply designed to change the way the money was distributed to the two firms.
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