Will Mayor Guenther Step Down Over ‘Disgraceful’ Brigantine Financial Audit? Will NJ Investigate?

Brigantine bank accounts not reconciled, purchase orders in duplicate, asset ledger not maintained in 2014, and checks for 6 grand sent monthly to a Florida LLC that used to manage golf courses. Just another day inside Mayor Guenther’s City Hall.

Make sure you thank Mike Feely; reporter for the Brigantine Beachcomber, the next time you see him. Feely provided residents with a detailed, front page report on just how broken and mis-managed the financial system of Brigantine City Hall is. You won’t find these details in the council meeting minutes edited by the city clerk. You also won’t find this major story in the Brigantine Times.

How bad is it? ‘It’s so bad, the 25% of homeowners with voting rights have lost sight of what’s right and wrong’ said Margaret Housman, a part-time resident for the past 25 years.

As usual, Mayor Guenther has been quiet on this latest Brigantine financial scandal. The 25+ year Mayor has proven time and time again that he is skilled at downplaying critical issues like these, even if bordering on ‘actionable offences’. A growing group of part-time residents, as well as full-time residents, have discussed a recall to remove Guenther from office after news broke of this debacle.

Mitchell Gonzalez, a full-time resident of Brigantine said: We’re not talking grey area here. It’s black and white. The Guenther administration has accomplished some amazingly brazen moves using 2nd homeowner dollars.

Financial & Economic Mis-Steps of Brigantine City Hall

  • The Links Golf Course give-away
  • $6,000 per month sent to Meadowbrook Golf in Florida for services unknown.
  • Public Safety employees costing close to $200,000 a piece
  • 9 ex-chiefs receiving pensions and benefits
  • Off-duty fireman rear-ends Police vehicle. City pays for repair. DUI check & wreckless driving offense covered up.
  • Budget-breaking union contracts expired 3 years ago, but are still valid
  • Bonding & borrowing with little detail on how those dollars are spent
  • Continued Fire Department overtime abuse
  • Documented BB-NJ.com breach of security perpetrated by Chief of Police
  • Lack of Brigantine Hockey & Football financials / non-profit transparency
  • Harassment of local business operators leading to 30+ empty storefronts
  • Deleting and blocking of City Council video webcasts

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BRIGANTINE BEACHCOMBER– The city may have to upgrade some of its accounting systems after an audit showed some of its 2014 reporting to be “a disgrace” while other items were termed unrecorded, unresolved, inaccurate and invalid.

The first of 9 major issues was “the general ledger was not reconciled with sub-ledgers.”

“This basically was a disgrace,” Auditor Costello said at a special July 24 council meeting. The effect was “not all transactions were properly recorded nor were transfers made within the period in which the disbursements occurred meaning the city is not compliant with New Jersey Administrative Code.

According to the report, the city had an over-expenditure of appropriations in the current fund appropriation reserves, which is not permitted by local budget law and local finance board regulations.

The city approved a debt service payment of “bond anticipation notes and capital notes in the current fund before verifying that there were sufficient funds available in the budget lines,” the report said. As a result, Costello said, the over-expenditures must be raised in the 2015 municipal budget as deferred charges.

Bank accounts were not reconciled in a timely manner and records were not available until the beginning of March 2015, he said. As a result, the annual municipal financial statement could not be filed on time as required by state statute.

The city’s master bank account reconciliation was inaccurately prepared and the city’s engineering escrow bank account was not reconciled at all in 2014, Costello said. Several expenses were unrecorded at year end as well as unresolved bank charges, inaccurate debt service payments and invalid encumbrances recorded.

There were several invalid purchase orders noted in all of the city’s funds.

The Brigantine Financial Report noted that some purchase orders were entered in duplicate, others did not have any support attached, and several could not be located.

Another finding said the fixed asset ledger was not maintained in 2014.

State administrative code requires the city to maintain a fixed asset ledger consisting of detailed property records for controlling additions, retirements and transfers of fixed assets.

The City Clerk’s Office failed to reconcile dog and marriage licenses in 2014, the report said, resulting in the state not receiving proper amounts. State reports were not signed or submitted on a timely basis, according to Costello.

The City of Brigantine was apparently unaware that the Police and Fire department post retirement dental benefits-liability had to be recorded.


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20 thoughts on “Will Mayor Guenther Step Down Over ‘Disgraceful’ Brigantine Financial Audit? Will NJ Investigate?”

  1. As a summer home owner since 2001 all I have seen is property taxes go up and the pride I had in purchasing a summer home on” the island you will love for life” become more and more the laughing stock of the south Jersey shore. When will the voting public of our island finally say enough is enough and take back our island. KICK ALL THE BUMS OUT and let’s start anew and build pride and accountability for all the citizens full and part timers. How can you full timers keep turning a blind eye to all the corruption and self serving PUBLIC SERVANTS paid by our tax dollars. DO SOME THING IF I could vote I would!!!!!

  2. So the 2914 city manager bluementhal who got votes of confidence from Lusa McClay and Rick Delucry proves to be incompetent

  3. We always planned to retire to Brigantine but all this political nonsense and the crazy rising taxes makes us leary, Obviously so are all the other prospective bujyers since the same properties have been on the market since January. I’d really like to see some improvements in the way this community operates before we buy. I would also like to see some appreciation from the long term residents to the 2nd home owners and renters. They are the people that keep Brigantine afloat.


  5. If all this is TRUE. Then please continue to investigate this matter. It just can’t continue and all residents should be concerned and getting this out in the open

  6. Most Brigantine city hall accounting “systems” are manual. (to use the term systems is laughable)
    Most transactions were recorded single entry.
    Most of the records such as bank statements were “lost”. Most of the bank statements had to be obtained directly from the bank after the fact. (how can anyone reconcile without banks statements?)
    Most subsidiary ledgers were “misplaced” or never maintained. (millions of dollars worth of fixed assets and equipment!)

    Anyone that knows anything about fund accounting would say that the “systems” and “books” (sic) were as bad as they could be.

    There are fund accounting rules regulations detailing how the “systems” are “books” are to be recorded and kept but once again it’s Outback Steakhouse…no rules, just right!

    Typical Brig Business!

    Guenther is Kool Moe Dee… “The Wild Wild West”

  7. We too had planned on retiring in Brigantine but the past couple of years has changed our minds. We are just waiting for that window of opportunity to list our house and go somewhere else to retire. I am tired of filling the wallets of Guenther, Simpson and all of the other “Old Boys Club” with our hard earned money.
    Elected officials represent, are responsible and should answer to the powers to be for their misconduct. Our dilemma is that Christie could care less and I guess Trenton has turned a deaf ear to what is going on in Brigantine. It appears the State of New Jersey considers Brigantine political actions & “COOKED BOOKS” ok because I am sure Gov. Christie couldn’t pass an audit either.
    As I have suggested in the past (and has not been published) have a SPECIAL ELECTION IN NOVEMBER (oust the current regime) and mandate a law in Brigantine that ” A LIMIT ON THE NUMBER OF YEARS ON ALL THE ELECTED/APPOINTED POLITICAL POSITIONS’. Let’s see if this gets published.
    Thank you

  8. The problem is, that everyone on Brigantine’s monstrous payroll is complicit in this scam.

    It is an all out conspiracy to steal as much money as possible from the non-resident home-owners who pay 77% of the taxes but have ZERO say (voting rights) in how their money is spent.

    Right now, it is just blatantly being stolen by the old boys network that runs Brigantine.

    Both the NJBI and the FBI should be notified

    1. Brig Business as usual
      Brigantine Municipal Welfare System at work

      I thought republicans stood against welfare, government handouts and entitlements?

  9. Very impressive – manual accounting systems in 2015, not reconciling sub ledgers to the general ledger, easier to cook the books?? Are you clowns kidding me???? How long is this BS going to drag on? The local hillbillies think they can do what ever they want, while the second homeowners fund the vast majority of the annual budget….In the real world a CFO and Controller would be fired “the day” their auditors released findings like those reported in the local papers… Not in good old Brigantine where “nepotism” still is king. Every time we drive over the bridge another business is shuttered. When is something going to change for the better? Can’t wait to see what their building on the circle…more condos owned by a corporation whose owners remain nameless but well connected? I’m sure the “Sea Gull” motel will be coming down soon as well. AND WHO stepped up and paid the back taxes????

  10. What to do about the blatant political corruption in Brigantine

    All concerned taxpayers, both residents and non-residents who are tired of the blatant theft of our tax-payer dollars by the Brigabilly cabal who run this town as if it is their own little private men’s club should do the following:

    1. Inundate every newspaper both local and in your home town with phone calls and letters requesting that they investigate the nefarious goings-on in Brigantine—the Atlantic Press, The New York Times, the New York Post, The NY Daily News. The Trenton Examiner, The Baltimore Sun, the The Phila Inquirer, the Washington Post., etc. etc. (these largely liberal newspapers would like nothing more than expose the corruption in a town that has been an absolute Republican stronghold for many, many years…BTW, I am a staunch conservative but the “leadership” in Brigantine proves the old adage that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”).

    2. Do the same with local and hometown TV stations and radio stations.

    3. Call into all the local radio talk shows (Harry Hurley, Don Williams, Barbara Altman, Dom Giordano, etc, etc) and be relentless in your complaints about the obscene abuses going on within Brigantine’s government

    4. Call the NJ State Commision of Investigation in Trenton at (609) 292-6767

    5. Call the local office of the FBI in Cherry Hill at (856) 795-5656

    If we continue to wait for Brigantine to clean-up its own act, it will NEVER happen !!!

    If we Brigantine non-resident tax-payers are tired of these pols using OUR tax dollars to enrich themselves and their families and friends, while we continue to pay exorbitantly high taxes for piss-poor municipal services, and NO say in how our tax-dollars are spent, our time to act is NOW !!!

  11. Patrick Costello

    Ten years ago, I published “Greenhead Politics”, which contained more than enough evidence of corruption and mismanagement in Brigantine to justify an investigation. The city government, headed by Mayor Guenther, turned its back on the subject and stayed silent until it blew over, which proved to be an effective tactic. At first, residents were outraged and demanded answers, but they were left to discuss it amongst themselves, since their elected government refused to comment on the contents of the book. Eventually, their underestimation of the public’s attention span proved accurate, and everyone just…forgot.

    22 years of uninterrupted absolute power seem to have only served to embolden Mayor Guenther, who appears so confident in his continued reign that he can blatantly disregard the wishes of the vast majority of his constituents with no worry over the consequences. The elections are a numbers game in which the full-time residential voting box is stuffed with the votes of those that have a vested interest in riding the gravy train. With a large block of guaranteed votes from city employees and their families and friends, the city government is free to do whatever they wish.

    City politics can be terribly frustrating, and it is beginning to appear that this is no accident. The more inaccessible the political process can be made, the more “normal” people will disengage from it in frustration and hopelessness. I am guilty of this myself. The issues in Brigantine are so rampant, and some of the people on the other side of the issues are so irrational and hard-headed, that I had to retire from writing regularly on this site, or be driven mad over a place where I no longer even live.

    Please, Brigantine…DO NOT wait for the city government to address these issues. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. You have to be relentless. You have to push. You have to be willing to suffer the peer-pressure that will be applied by your friends and neighbors. My book is old news, but you have another chance to take back your city and at least force your government to act with a modicum of transparency and respect for the wishes of ALL the taxpayers, not just a chosen few.

    Please, follow Albert Zini’s excellent advise and get on the Mayor’s back to answer these allegations, whether it be an answer you or to some higher authority, or in ten years, you might look back and wish you did.

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