Judge Denies Norcross Bid to Delay Investigation of Tax Breaks by Task Force

David Cruz, NJTV News | June 18, 2019 | Budget
After hours of arguments from both side in Mercer County Criminal Court, South Jersey powerbroker fails to obstruct examination of controversial tax incentives

Gov. Phil Murphy’s dispute with South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross over controversial Economic Development Authority tax breaks had its day in Mercer County Criminal Court.

After hours of arguments, presiding judge Mary Jacobson sided with the Murphy administration and did not grant an injunction.

At issue was whether Murphy’s task force investigating the EDA should be allowed to continue its work, including issuing an interim report. On one hand, George Norcross and several corporate entities based in Camden, say that the task force has exceeded its authority and is targeting private individuals like them and not the EDA.

“Whenever you are denying the opportunity to confront one’s accusers, whenever you are truncating their ability to make a full and fair presentation in their defense, you are of course violating their constitutional rights,” said Kevin Marino, attorney for Parker McKay. “We don’t think we’re a proper subject, we don’t think you’re examining the affairs or the management of even the EDA — which we don’t think is a state agency — but be that as it may, if you’re going to do that, let us cross-examine.”

“You will impact the law of this state for many, many years. Your decision will have enormous precedental value. It will determine what a governor may do or not do in terms of agencies which are in but not of the state,” said Herbert Stern, attorney for Cooper University Health Care.

On the other hand, the governor’s side says that efforts are being made to try to hide information concerning hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds.

“You’re trying suppress important, fundamental information from the public under the guise now of the possibility that their clients may be mentioned,” said Ted Wells, an attorney for the governor. “This is a radical, unprecedented ruling that they are asking you to make. Radical and unprecedented. The governor has every right to hold a hearing. This is voluntary information that they got from the EDA.”

“We are talking about issues of the public purse — hundreds of millions of dollars going back to 2017 under Gov. Christie when this was identified. So nobody can say that this is something Gov. Murphy invented,” Wells added.