South Jersey Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III asked a judge on Thursday to halt a public hearing on an investigation into New Jersey’s tax-incentive programs, saying his reputation could be “wrongfully damaged.”
The task force, appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has been investigating the state’s awarding of tax credits and whether any recipient companies abused the programs. A state grand jury is also conducting its own probe of the programs, The Inquirer and other news outlets reported this week.
The task force investigators spent much of their May 2 hearing examining whether Norcross’ insurance brokerage, Conner Strong & Buckelew, and companies tied to him had misled the state in their applications. Norcross’ company and its partners were approved for $245 million in tax credits in 2017 after agreeing to invest in Camden.
The credits are awarded over a 10-year period; to get them, companies must meet their pledges.
The task force said it would continue with its work, and this week announced it would release the initial findings of its investigation and recommendations at a public hearing in Trenton next Tuesday.
In Thursday’s court filing, lawyers for Norcross and others asked a Superior Court judge in Trenton to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the hearing until the lawsuit over its legality is resolved.
“Plaintiffs have already suffered and will continue to suffer reputational harm and loss of goodwill as a result of the task force’s misconduct,” lawyers wrote for Norcross and five companies with ties to him: Cooper University Health Care, the Michaels Organization, NFI, Parker McCay, and Conner Strong, of which Norcross is executive chairman.
The plaintiffs have made an “enormous investment in the revitalization of Camden," the lawyers wrote, adding that they had been “falsely and publicly accused of misconduct regarding the tax incentives that lawfully attend such investment and have been denied a fair opportunity to refute those defamatory accusations.”
Murphy and fellow Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, are debating whether and how to change the incentives programs before they expire July 1.