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The Issues
(or why Mayor Bagnell should be getting this pink slip)

CLUELESS (For more proof of this click here)

  • Mr. Bagnell moved Commission meetings to late afternoon when he knew most 9-to-5 workers can’t attend. The Mayor watches a clock, then halts speakers when their 3 or 5 minute limit is up. The May newsletter claims that dialogue with the mayor is a two-way street. Oh really?
  • Bagnell is out of touch with storm-damaged, struggling taxpayers when his 2013 budget hands out a 125% pay raise to Tom Quirk, his campaign manager. How can it be anything but demoralizing to city workers held to stricter limits to see cronyism rewarded so richly?
  • He gave the City Solicitor position to a divorce & criminal defense lawyer for whom municipal law is a learn-on-the-job education at our taxpayer expense. That hiring repaid a political IOU to his election eve robo-caller, the lawyer’s daddy. Meanwhile, four-figure monthly bills the city once paid a well known muni law specialist (Tim Maguire) have morphed into five-figure monthly bills paid to the new Solicitor. $11,599 in April; $14,365 in May.
  • Bagnell filled the empty position of a salaried-with-benefits City Engineer – vacant since 2009 when former Mayor Kelly pursued infrastructure projects using outsourced specialized engineering services -- with a man hired because Bagnell said he’d been his “friend for 40 years.” That friend is now earning his highest salary ever ($100,000) paid out of the Water & Sewer budget, after separating from his $90,000 salary at Remington & Vernick in Fall 2012. Meanwhile, Ventnor is still hiring outside engineering firms with expertise to draw up blueprints. Bagnell’s “friend” lacks these credentials. The “friend’s” former employer - Remington & Vernick – was awarded a $90,000 contract to draw blueprints for city hall’s new heating system.
  • Commissioner Kelly requested notification and copies of all OPRA requests and their results back in March 2013. Mayor Bagnell did not put this into practice until October of 2013 (PDF).

HURRICANE SANDY (For more proof of this click here)

  • Margate sent out 6 robo-calls with instructions right after the storm. Ventnor? Zero.
  • Residents who asked questions on the Facebook pages set up as communications outlets by the city got no responses for days on end. Some never! One resident pleaded on Facebook for the city to send out trucks with bullhorns to at least let people know if water was safe to drink.
  • Residents who rode out the storm in their homes, and then drove to the mainland under sunny skies for food due to closure of flooded local stores, returned to find roadblocks preventing them from getting back to their homes, children and pets. Many ended up walking -- skulking behind bushes – to reach their homes. Homes and businesses suffered break-ins and lootings as Mayor Mike presided over a town he wanted to empty out after the storm.
  • Ventnor didn’t pre-plan for the known need of debris removal. Ocean City pre-planned --it got a local hauler at a competitively bid rate “per cubic” that was HALF what Ventnor ended up paying. Margate pre-planned – it reserved 24 dumpsters ahead of the storm and used its own Public Works employees, on Overtime, to clean up. Brigantine designated public spaces for debris drop-offs. Ventnor signed a contract a week after the storm with now-notorious AshBritt from Florida. Now, the probe into AshBritt is holding up FEMA reimbursements to towns like Ventnor that hired them.
  • Under Bagnell and Quirk’s management, Ventnor seems to have submitted inflated claims for reimbursement to FEMA for repairs to public structures and replacement of equipment which were not damaged by the storm. It’s risky business to flim-flam and try to get one over on the federal government. The mayor’s “friend” now occupying the City Engineer position even got sarcastic with the FEMA representative handling Ventnor’s claims. After being told that FEMA would not reimburse the cost of removing two boilers from basement of city hall because one had been abandoned-in-place in the 1970’s, and being asked by FEMAto revise the cost quote to reflect what the removal costs were for solely the furnace unit ruined by flooding, he replied:
  • From: Charles Sabatini
    Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 12:00 PM
    To: [NameRedacted]
    Subject: RE: Bids for removal of Boiler system
    Does FEMA know how to divide by two? If so divide by two. If not hire someone that does know how to divide by two.

A salary of $100,000 ought to buy something better for Ventnor than a pal of the mayor who mouths off at the feds. FEMA has the power to decide how much reimbursement Ventnor will get. Otherwise, we the taxpayers -- the true owners of this town -- get stuck with the tab!

  • Mr. Bagnell showed up for a 5 minute “photo op” at the Community Room where the relief volunteers were hard at work, but never came back. Instead, he and Tom Quirk spent the next five months throwing up obstacles. Our own Ventnor good Samaritans - networking with outside relief agencies, donors, and volunteer laborers sending HELP to our town-- toiled 24/7 to do muck-outs and rip outs of damaged homes in the months after the storm. They deserved better.
  • Ventnor’s voluntary group needed some data to fill out paperwork for a $150,000 Robin Hood grant but learned it had not been compiled by Ventnor – unlike other towns which quickly developed ready-to-use data for storm-recovery grant applications.
  • Mayor Mike declined to waive fees for building permits sought by homeowners needing to make storm-related repairs, unlike most other coastal towns’ mayors. At a public meeting, he defended his decision, saying that Ventnor didn’t have the budget that Margate does. The municipal budgets of the two towns are very close; it’s the Mayor’s priorities that are faulty. In his mind, and in the mind of Ventnor’s alter ego mayor Tom Quirk, how is there plenty of taxpayer money to feather the nests of themselves and pals? But not enough to help actual taxpayers in some small token way to get back into their homes? Penny ante revenues from permit fees can’t and won’t make up for $400,000 of uncollectible taxes. Wiser leaders in other NJ towns put a high priority on getting owners back into their homes, and back to paying tax bills. They waived building permit fees to help make it happen.
  • While Margate, Ocean City, Brigantine and other towns in the Coastal Coalition set to work in March, hiring coastal engineering experts to develop flood maps of their towns to dispute the FEMA flood maps, and as those towns have pro-actively met with FEMA to negotiate the next round of maps, Ventnor’s Mayor and his hirelings have been passive. It appears Bagnell plans to leave Ventnor to rely entirely on the more generic Coastal Coalition study. As of May, the city engineer was waiting for FEMA to get in touch before proceeding to work up a study of the city’s bulkheads and how much they might reduce the current “V” zone designations, which pose a serious problem to many homes in the Heights. Margate started surveying bulkhead elevations back in March to present “better science” to FEMA. Ventnor is so far behind in executing on a gameplan that many Heights residents are being abandoned, left to drift. Putting houses up on pilings as the “V” designation requires would be not merely cost-prohibitive but, for many Heights homes, physically impossible.
  • Mr. Bagnell seems to think that political grandstanding while playing host to StopFEMANow, a homeowners group, is a substitute for the real homework that Ventnor needed to develop months ago, and bring to FEMA’s attention before FEMA hardens its position with Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Grandstanding is empty words; leadership demands effective action.

SPENDING (For more proof of this click here)

  • The mayor whose “Better for Ventnor” campaign centered on a theme of No More Long-Term Debt added $3 million to debt in December, followed by $2.3 million and $5 million in April, then in May another $5 million. The last amount finds Ventnor pledging tax revenues in 2014 for something akin to a bridge loan, concealing what would have been sticker shock 2013 tax hikes that would have revealed the extent of the spending. It kicks the can down the road, in the hope but not the certainty that FEMA reimbursements might come through. There’ll be a day of painful reckoning if they don’t. It’s like credit card spending today always brings bills due tomorrow.
  • The temporary Hot Air Blower outside city hall has cost taxpayers $15,000 per month to rent the unit and another $17,252 in electricity for just the month of January alone. The excuse? City Hall needs a whole new HVAC design and the next system can’t be in the basement. Was there a cheaper alternative? YES.
    • One suggestion was that the city buy a new boiler, install it in the basement, acknowledge that it would be only temporary to provide heat at the more normal $2,444 per month natural gas costs the city paid in January 2012. Then, without hemorrhaging $30k per month of our tax dollars, work out new HVAC blueprints and install new system.
    • Mayor Bagnell’s campaign criticized the Kelly administration for renting the temporary sewage pump for the West Canal at $10,000 per month, claiming it would have been better to outright buy a pump rather than renting. The BOILER was his chance. Mike Bagnell failed to walk his own campaign talk.
  • The man who campaigned against too much long term debt put the Ventnor West/Ice Rink land swap on hold a year ago. NJ DEP then put over $2.1 million of funding needed by Ventnor to pay down pier debt on hold, too. Only in April 2013 has that process gotten on track with a Resolution. The 2-0 vote shows that “Mayor Mike” was absent from the meeting passing it.
  • Ventnor's embarking on having an expensive K-9 function as part of its law enforcement mission

MEDDLING (For more proof of this click here)

In 2011, the Ventnor-Margate Lions Club sponsored an auto show near the AutoZone, raised $3,000 in net proceeds, obtained a match from the national organization, and had $6,000 to devote to local charities. In 2012, Bagnell via the new Ventnor Tourism Board he’d created with a city Resolution, basically elbowed in, staging a car show at the Library. The event lost money and a public information request found no one in city hall with any financial details.

Our effort is not about sour grapes from sore losers upset about the May 2012 election. If it were, it would target Commissioner Sarno along with Bagnell. It doesn’t. This is about Ventnor. Our town not only deserves better than Bagnell at the helm, it absolutely NEEDS better leadership.