The Bankroll Behind Stephen Mitchell
The Red Bank resident and environmentalist is fighting the development of a hotel along the river, but he's got an anonymous financial backer.
Someone’s forking over the cash to cover the legal costs associated with Red Bank resident Stephen Mitchell’s lawsuit against a plan to develop a hotel on a tiny parcel of land alongside the Navesink River, and it’s not Mitchell.
The issue was brought up at a prior Planning Board meeting by Martin McGann, the attorney representing a developer looking to build a 76-room Hampton Inn and Suites at a former gas station. He asked the board to look into whether or not there was another interest in the suit, an anonymous someone or something other than Mitchell, likely a competitor, who was financing the suit.
Turns out it’s true. At Monday’s meeting the issue was broached by McGann once again. Mitchell’s attorney, Ron Gasiorowski admitted that there was a second party involved in the suit, but when asked to identify who that second party was, in order for the board to determine whether it has standing in the community, he balked, saying there was no case law on the books to support the board making any such demand.
Though the issue was put aside for the remainder of the meeting, with testimony about polluted ground water and a brick façade taking up much of the planning discussion, it’s clear that this issue hasn’t been resolved. Board Vice Chair Daniel Mancuso said he’s interested in finding out who the other interest in the lawsuit may be.
“As a board member, I would like to know who’s objecting,” he said. “It’s unclear who the clients really are.”
Following the meeting, both Gasiorowski and McGann again declined to say whom the backer is. McGann was the first to bring the issue before the board in a meeting more than a month ago, alleging that there may be a competitive interest to the financial support, but declined to reveal whom the competitor, most assuredly another local hotel owner, was. Though no names have revealed, individuals have made some remarks alluding to the idea that the backer is a local competitor. On separate occasions during the night, it was remarked that obstructing another hotel’s river view is not an adequate reason for objection.
McGann said he would not push the issue further, but said he believes the board members are skeptical following Gasiorowski’s refusal to identify the benefactor. Gasiorowski did tell the board that the lawsuit is not being funded by an individual, nor is it being funded by an environmental group with interest in preserving the riverside location.
Board attorney Michael Leckstein said Gasiorowski has communicated with the planning board about the second party, but has not disclosed the name the paying entity to them, even in correspondence. The board would like to know the name of the entity if only to see if its objection carries any weight. It’s unclear what action the board can or is willing to take, though Gasiorowski has said the matter is one he’d likely take to court to defend.