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West Wildwood mayor's ethics appeal goes to Office of Administrative Law

West Wildwood mayor's ethics appeal goes to Office of Administrative Law


The state Local Finance Board voted Wednesday to send an appeal of alleged ethics violations by West Wildwood Mayor Chris Fox to the Office of Administrative Law.

The appeal was sent to the OAL as a contested case, said Department of Community Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Ryan.

The Office of Administrative Law employs a corps of administrative law judges who hear contested cases for state agencies and issue initial decisions, according to the agency’s website.

Fox, who has refused to talk to The Press of Atlantic City, was notified of the violations and $24,900 in fines in an April 11 letter from Melanie R. Walter, chairwoman of the Local Finance Board, according to a copy of the letter provided by the DCA.

But he said he did not receive them until May 13, and was given until June 13 to file an appeal. He filed it June 4.

There were 21 pages of descriptions of his actions the board said violated state ethics laws in the notice of violations.

Some were related to actions he took as mayor that benefited police Chief Jacqueline Ferentz, with whom he lives. Others were related to his failure to disclose all income he receives on state-required financial disclosure statements, and to his entering into shared-services agreements with neighboring Wildwood while he was also business administrator there.

The board said Fox violated state ethics laws when he voted in favor of designating himself director of public safety, with oversight of the Police Department, 10 days before the borough reinstated Ferentz as a police officer and about a month before she was named chief.

Fox also allegedly violated the law when he gave Ferentz back pay and pension credit for a time when she did not serve in the Police Department; and voted in favor of a 50% increase in Ferentz’s salary from $67,000 to $101,000, from 2015 to 2017.

Fox, a retired Wildwood police officer, receives a police pension.

His daughter Nicole Fox has since been hired as a police officer in West Wildwood.

Christopher Fox’s lawyer, Michelle J. Douglass, sent a letter to the board June 4 officially appealing the violations.

Douglass is the same lawyer who represented Ferentz when she sued the borough over her treatment by a previous mayor.

Ferentz won a $1.7 million judgment taxpayers are struggling to pay, forcing cutbacks in city workers’ hours and other cost-saving measures. The borough’s insurance company refused to pay the award, saying the municipality — by then under Fox’s leadership — failed to adequately defend itself in the suit.

Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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