South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross filed a restraining order in court Thursday against Gov. Phil Murphy in an effort to stop an investigation by his administration into the state’s multi-billion dollar corporate tax break programs and how they may have benefited Norcross and those around him.
The 44-page order, filed Thursday in Mercer County Superior Court, also seeks to bar the task force from holding any additional public hearings and from releasing its findings, which is scheduled to happen next week.
In the brief, lawyers for Norcross and the other plaintiffs argued that Murphy and his administration committed “unlawful acts” by “empowering, functioning as, presiding over and counseling the Task Force on the EDA’s Tax Incentives,” which the document describes as “an entity cloaked with governmental power charged with investigating the conduct of the [Economic Development Authority].”
The other plaintiffs — insurance firm Conner Strong & Buckelew, where Norcross is a partner; NFI; The Michaels Organization; Cooper University Health, where Norcross sits on the board; and law firm Parker McCay where George’s brother Philip is a partner — have also filed a separate suit against the Murphy administration seeking to shut down the task force entirely.
“It has already stated that it will release an interim report at its June 11 hearing, which will undoubtedly refer to plaintiffs or suggest that they are among those participants who have violated the terms of those programs,” reads the brief signed off by five separate attorneys.
“The attendant harm to Plaintiffs’ reputations will be irreparable because, among other things, it will chill other firms and clients from doing business with them generally, and in Camden specifically,” the brief continues.
In May, the task force revealed documents which demonstrated that Kevin Sheehan, an attorney at Parker McCay, wrote several pieces of the legislation establishing the Grow New Jersey tax breaks so as to benefit clients of the firm.
The task force also outlined how several of the companies now suing the Murphy administration provided bogus data about plans to move out of the state in order to win hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.
Meanwhile, a state grand jury has subpoenaed the EDA for documents related to the tax breaks awarded to such companies as Conner Strong, TMO and NFI.
Murphy convened the task force in January following the release of a state comptroller’s audit which found that the EDA lacked considerable oversight in its ability to vet tax break applicants.
As a result, the EDA over-awarded tax breaks or gave them to companies which never should have received such incentives in the first place, in addition to lacking the means to verify whether companies were complying with the program after receiving the credits.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office could not be reached for comment.