Monmouth County Lawmakers Say Public Must Have Opportunity to Voice Opinion on Lease of Monmouth Park

Jan 20, 2004

Long Branch, NJ --- Four Monmouth County lawmakers today requested that George Zoffinger, President of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, insure that the public be included in the proposal to lease Monmouth Park by making all relevant information available to the public and holding a public forum in which citizens could voice their opinions.

In a letter sent to Zoffinger today, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), State Senator Ellen Karcher (D-District 12), State Assemblymen Robert Morgan (D-District 12) and Michael Panter (D-District 12) requested the Sports Authority:

Hold a public forum or hearing in which members of the public can voice their concerns and opinions before an agreement is reached. The lawmakers offered to host the forum, with the full support and participation of representatives from the Sports Authority.

Disclose to the public before a hearing all relevant information, including any reports submitted to the authority or its members regarding Monmouth Park. This is to include the release of the consultants report made by Lehman Brothers recommending that Monmouth Park be leased to private investors.

Include provisions in any lease agreement that prevents any party from using the property for residential or commercial development.

Ensure any lease agreement guarantees the state and taxpayers receive more revenue under the lease than previously received under public operation. The state should also receive the full benefit of revenues resulting from video lottery terminals and off-track betting, should these operations commence in the future.

Guarantee current park employees wages, benefits, and overall employment status as part of any agreement.

"The Sports Authority has expressed its willingness to work with local elected officials," Pallone said. "We are grateful for such cooperation and would only hope it could be extended to include the general public."

The Sports Authority has denied previous requests to make details regarding the proposed lease available to the public and to date has yet to schedule a public hearing on the issue. However, the Sports Authority did express interest in making any lease agreement "satisfactory to Shore-area officials."