TRENTON - Hundreds of homeowners from Roxbury packed a legislative hearing in Trenton, urging state lawmakers to take over the Fenimore Landfill. But lawmakers adjourned without taking a vote.
The hearing comes after months of Kane In Your Corner investigations that exposed dangerous air quality levels caused by a landfill development project, questionable conduct by the state in awarding the development deal, and serious irregularities on the part of the private company handling it.
“Each night I put towels underneath my doors in a vain attempt to thwart the gas from entering my rooms,” homeowner Denise Squires told members of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
Despite the testimony, committee chairman Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway), declined to allow a vote on a bill from Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Denville), that would authorize a state takeover of the landfill. Smith said the bill is vague and does not identify the necessary funding. “Rather than release a defective bill that will be overturned in the courts, let us fix it and do it right,” Smith said. In return, Bucco and other Republicans accused Smith of trying to “hijack” the legislation.
The hearing comes one day after News 12 New Jersey’s Walt Kane revealed the entire Fenimore development project may be based on illegal documents. Richard Bernardi signed the agreement with the state claiming to be “director” of Strategic Environmental Partners, the landfill owner. He also took out a $1 million mortgage claiming to be its “managing member”. But Bernardi isn’t actually a company official, or even an employee. SEP was set up entirely in his wife’s name, perhaps because Bernardi owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in bad debts and is a convicted felon. As previous Kane In Your Corner investigations showed, that conviction could make it illegal for him to operate a landfill in New Jersey.
Under questioning by lawmakers, SEP attorney Matthew Fredericks stuck with the company line, saying “the sole member of the LLC is Marilyn Bernardi.” When the gallery erupted in sarcastic laughter, Fredericks added, “I recognize what the perception of my comment is; I’m just making that statement as a matter of fact.”
Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) said that in light of the details revealed by News 12 New Jersey on Wednesday, Fredericks’s statement was “sort of ridiculous”.