UNION, NJ — Upon hearing that John Kean filed a motion with the court to join forces with the university to defend his right to hand over the right of first refusal to the university, township officials retaliated saying “our taxpayers are not their piggy bank.”
Citing the fact the latest “maneuver” by Kean University leadership appears to center around John Kean’s unsubstantiated claims of ownership of the 50-acre parcel of land mired in legal red tape, Mayor Manuel Figueiredo called for the release of the last three year’s of Kean University Foundation expenditures.
The mayor pointed out John Kean’s previous involvement with NUI Energy, a company, he said, that was forced to plead guilty and pay substantial fines as a result of “using bogus transactions to boost their profit at the expense of area ratepayers.”
“The Kean family are long-standing pillars of our community. Their family has centuries-old history of philanthropy and public service and their legacy in Union County and throughout the state has no equal. Unfortunately, John Kean continues to be at the center of this dispute, even after his claims of ownership for the land in question have been completely dismissed by the court,” Figueiredo said.
The mayor was referring to Superior Court Judge Katherine R. Dupuis’ decision, handed down in early January, which said Kean University had no legal claim to the right of first refusal to buy the Merck property, even though the university claimed they were given that right by John Kean, an heir who sold the property in 1986 to Schering Plough.
John Kean’s motion for inclusion in the motion for reconsideration filed by the university was scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 12.
The motion for inclusion has to be heard before Feb. 20, when Dupuis will hear the university’s motion for reconsideration.
In the meantime, the township brought out the heavy artillery this week, retaliating against the legal barrage that is preventing John Russo of Russo Developers from moving forward with negotiations to purchase the desirable tract of land from Merck.
The township and Merck have now joined forces with Russo in objecting to the inclusion of John Kean in the motion.
“Unfortunately, Dr. Farahi and the board of trustees continue to conspire with John Kean to claim ownership of this land with no legal documentation or basis of fact. The argument being presented by Mr. Kean and university leadership appears that the land should go to them simply because they say so,” said the mayor.
Sources close to the township said John Kean has little legal ground to stand on regarding his late request to be included in the university’s motion for reconsideration, citing the fact that a decision was already made in this legal argument by Dupuis.
Sources maintained the court will take a negative view of his not joining forces with the university from the beginning to defend his right to hand over the right of first refusal to the university.
The mayor agreed completely with this legal opinion and did not mince words when it came to how he feels about this latest legal maneuver, or the man behind it.
“While we recognize it is not in fashion to speak truth to power as it relates to the Kean family, Mr. Kean is treating township taxpayers the same way he seemingly treated the NUI Energy Brokers ratepayers,” he said.
Figueiredo explained John Kean’s previous involvement with NUI Energy Brokers as chief executive brought him in the line of fire when the company was forced to plead guilty and pay substantial fines as a result of “using bogus transactions to boost their profits at the expense of area ratepayers.”
The mayor said the university president and board of trustees “are blazing a trail of mismanagement to the detriment of Kean University students, their families, Union Township and surrounding communities.”
“It is sad to see a member of New Jersey royalty throw his weight behind this bunch, but our taxpayers are not their piggy bank,” said Figueiredo.
The mayor said because of the continued legal entanglements between John Kean and the university leadership, he has made a request for documentation.
“I believe Mr. Kean should release the last three years of Kean Foundation expenditures for the sake of complete and total transparency as they continue to keep this land tied up in the courts,” Figueiredo said, adding the sale of this land will provide $4 million in tax relief to township taxpayers but it is being held up based on a wholly unsubstantiated claim of ownership.
“People deserve to know why,” the mayor said.
Efforts to contact John Kean multiple times were unsuccessful.