WEST WILDWOOD — Mayor Christopher Fox’s appeal of $24,900 in fines for alleged violations of state ethics laws will either be heard by the Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board or by the state Office of Administrative Law, according to a DCA spokeswoman.

“The state’s Local Finance Board will vote — likely at its meeting July 10 — on whether it will hear the appeal itself or transfer the matter to the state Office of Administrative Law,” Lisa Ryan wrote in response to an email request for information.

Ryan said the board usually sends such cases to the Office of Administrative Law.

Fox has refused to talk to The Press of Atlantic City.

He was notified of the ethics fines in an April 11 letter from Melanie R. Walter, chairwoman of the Local Finance Board, according to a copy of the letter provided by the DCA.

It included 21 pages of descriptions of his actions the board said violated state ethics laws.

Some were related to actions he took as mayor that benefited police Chief Jacqueline Ferentz, with whom he lives. Others were related to his failure to disclose all income he receives on state-required financial disclosure statements, and to his entering into shared-services agreements with neighboring Wildwood while he was also business administrator there.

The board said Fox violated state ethics laws when he voted in favor of designating himself director of public safety, with oversight of the Police Department, 10 days before the borough reinstated Ferentz as a police officer and about a month before she was named chief.

Fox also allegedly violated the law when he gave Ferentz back pay and pension credit for a time in which she did not serve in the Police Department; and voted in favor of a 50% increase in Ferentz’s salary from $67,000 to $101,000, from 2015 to 2017.

Fox, a retired Wildwood police officer, receives a police pension.

His daughter Nicole Fox has since been hired as a police officer in West Wildwood, to the dismay of many residents.

Christopher Fox had a month from the time he received the letter to file an appeal.

He called the board May 13 to say he had just received the letter, Ryan said. So he had until June 13 to appeal.

Christopher Fox’s lawyer, Michelle J. Douglass, sent a letter to the board June 4 officially appealing the violations.

Douglass is the same lawyer who represented Ferentz when she sued the borough over her treatment by a previous mayor.

Ferentz won a $1.7 million judgment that taxpayers are struggling to pay, forcing cutbacks in city workers’ hours and other cost-saving measures. The borough’s insurance company refused to pay the award, saying the municipality — by then under Fox’s leadership — failed to adequately defend itself in the suit.

In late May, Wildwood City Commission voted 2-1 to terminate Fox from his position as business administrator, saying negative publicity about his ethics violations was harming Wildwood’s reputation.

West Wildwood Commissioner Cornelius Maxwell resigned earlier this month, saying it was for personal reasons; and West Wildwood Administrator Chris Ridings, who has been with the borough since 2011, resigned last week, citing personal reasons, according to the Cape May County Herald. Ridings retired as deputy chief of police in Mount Laurel, Burlington County.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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