A number of companies tied to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross that have been the main focus of the Murphy administration’s tax break task force did not appear when the panel heard public comments during a July 9 hearing.
The companies have repeatedly pushed for a chance to publicly address allegations made by the task force, which Gov. Phil Murphy put together in January to investigate the award of Grow New Jersey incentives. They have also sought the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses the task force has heard from, something they have not been granted.
Those companies include Cooper University Health Care and insurance firm Conner Strong & Buckelew where Norcross is executive chairman, law firm Parker McCay where George’s brother Philip is a partner, logistics provider NFI and builder and developer The Michaels Organization.
The most recent task force hearing included commentary from activists as well as Camden residents and local officials. While comments were limited to five minutes per person, the hearing continued for roughly five hours.
“There would be an unreasonable limitation of five minutes to respond to all of the false accusations against Cooper that the Task Force spent hours presenting at the last public hearing and also in its lengthy report,” Cooper spokesperson Thomas Rubino told NJBIZ.
“It is clear the Task Force is not interested in finding the truth, but rather attacking Cooper’s reputation,” he added.
The companies argued that they were only notified the night before the May 2 Newark task force hearing, where many of the allegations were first presented, granting them little time to prepare any counter arguments.
The task force alleges that those businesses made false claims about where they would move out of state, if they did not receive tax credits for a move to Camden, at the advise of Parker McCay lawyer Kevin Sheehan. Additionally, Sheehan allegedly crafted many parts of the legislation establishing the tax breaks to directly benefit those businesses.
Daniel Fee, a spokesperson for many of the Norcross-related companies, as well as George Norcross himself, said they “weren’t allowed” to publicly appear today — a charge the governor’s office disputed.
“Members of the public were invited to speak to the task force today. Some 40 people, including elected officials, public employees, business owners and advocates presented their views and each was given the same amount of time to speak,” Darryl Isherwood, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said in a statement to NJBIZ. “No member of the public was barred from speaking.”
That task force as has said that as much as $500 million of tax breaks could be clawed back and returned to the state.