BELMAR, NJ — Hours after being named executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty announced he will be leaving the borough’s top elected post in three weeks.

Making his announcement at the Belmar Council's regular meeting on March 20, Doherty said that the borough deserves a full-time mayor. The Democrat began his job as CRDA’s deputy executive director on March 6 — a month after turning down a job in the Murphy administration as chief administrator of the N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission.

"I have spent a lot of time being mayor, but now working full time in Atlantic City is taking up all of my time and that's not fair to Belmar residents," he said.

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Earlier in the day in Atlantic City, current CRDA Executive Director Christopher Howard announced he will be leaving the authority to pursue new opportunities in the private sector no later than July 1 — paving the way for Doherty to move up into the $175,000-a-year position.

Doherty's last day as mayor will be April 10 — the date of the next borough council meeting when Council President Brian Magovern will briefly take over the mayoral reins until the governing body selects a mayor from a pool of three individuals to be provided by Belmar Democratic Chairman John Hutchinson.

If a mayor is selected from the three remaining Democrats on the council — Magovern, Jennifer Nicolay and Thomas Brennan — then the names of another three individuals will be provided by Hutchinson to appoint a person to fill that Democratic council member’s unexpired term.

Doherty said that it is a “huge opportunity” to become executive director of CRDA, Atlantic City’s key redevelopment agency, responsible for the investment of nearly $2 million into the beachfront resort since it was established by the state Legislature in 1984.

“Atlantic City is an iconic city in this country,” he said. “CRDA invests in economic development in the revitalization of the city and brings tourism to the city.”

While Belmar has some 1 million visitors each year, Atlantic City attracts 20 million in comparison, he added.

In making the announcement of Doherty’s appointment, CRDA Chairman Robert Mulcahy said, “The board welcomes Matt Doherty to the CRDA with open arms. We are excited to continue bringing a new vision to the city together.”

In its prepared statement, the authority said that Doherty “brings a wealth of economic development, tourism and sound government experience to the authority, which will be put to good use as CRDA continues its work to bolster the revitalization of Atlantic City.

“During his seven-year tenure as the mayor of Belmar, the borough has seen more private economic development than in the previous 30 years. Belmar is also one of the most popular tourist destinations for middle-class families at the Jersey Shore,” it continued. “Under Mr. Doherty’s leadership, Belmar recovered from Superstorm Sandy in a way that ensured everyone was able to get back home and businesses were able to thrive."

Ethics Complaints Dismissed

Doherty's appointment came a month after the Department of Community Affairs’s Local Finance Board dismissed two ethics complaints filed against him by former Republican Belmar Councilman James Bean.

In the 2014 complaint, it was alleged that Doherty violated Belmar’s ethics law because his wife, Maggie Moran, worked as a consultant for AshBritt, the Florida company that provided debris cleanup services after Superstorm Sandy for most of the state, including Belmar. The board ruled there was no factual basis for the complaint because the borough retained AshBritt under a state contract.

In the 2016 complaint, Doherty was accused of allowing campaign donor Leo Ayala to land a helicopter at Silver Lake Park, without official approval and to “secure unwarranted privileges” under ethics law. The board ruled that the complaint “lacked jurisdiction and a reasonable factual basis,” citing that the proper procedure was followed in securing temporary state licensing for the landing and that there was no evidence of a connection between Ayala's $2,500 donation and landing license approval.

Doherty is in his final year of his second term as Belmar mayor. He was first elected to the Belmar council in 2006. He ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket for Monmouth County freeholder in 2016.

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