Bradley Beach Lobster Fest canceled due to conflict of interest

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The annual Bradley Beach Lobster Fest was abruptly canceled this year after it was discovered that the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce had lost its nonprofit status several years ago.

The Chamber of Commerce sponsors the popular boardwalk event. Town leaders and chamber members apparently did not know about the change in status. Being a nonprofit is necessary to be the event’s main sponsor.

“I feel very responsible. I’m angry and very embarrassed,” said Chamber executive director Shirley Ayers through tears.

The loss of nonprofit status was discovered after Bradley Beach resident Thomas Coan filed a lawsuit, which argued that there was a conflict of interest on town council involved in the approval of Lobster Fest.

"I don't know what made this gentlemen do the research that he did but he found out from the state of New Jersey that we were not compliant,” Ayers says.

News 12 New Jersey spoke with Coan by phone about the situation. He says that this all started with the dismissal of “public comment” at council meetings in town. He says that the town is making Ayers a scapegoat.

“Nobody is holding the mayor, the town attorney or the Chamber of Commerce as a whole, responsible,” he says.

Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Emgelstad tells News 12 that he also holds chamber members responsible. He said that the borough tried very hard to step in and be the sponsor, but that the regulatory procurement process that municipalities adhere to prevented it from happening within the short timetable. 

The Asbury Park-based group that owns the Lobster Fest brand, The Passion Group, can now decide to take the event to another town if it chooses.

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