CAMDEN, NJ — Add another chapter to the oft one-sided feud between Camden officials and Gov. Phil Murphy.
The city-affiliated leaders have issued a statement that Murphy "is not welcome in Camden until he stops attacking the city and the progress it's making."
This comes in reference to an investigation into the Economic Development Authority's issuance of tax incentives statewide, including $1.6 billion to Camden, by a task force that Murphy commissioned.
"...(Murphy) has repeatedly attacked or otherwise tried to stop the progress the city is making while he's been in office," read the statement on Friday from Mayor Frank Moran, city council president Curtis Jenkins and state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez.
In issuing the statement, it was believed by the officials that Murphy on Friday was attending an event on "inclusive growth" at LEAP Academy, which they say would have marked only the second visit by the governor to the city.
But Murphy was not there or ever scheduled to be there, according to spokesperson Darryl Isherwood.
The statement from the group of South Jersey Democrats comes on the heels of a rally centered on the city's rebuild the day prior that included two former governors. Moran during that event said that close to 30 companies have relocated or are planning to expand in Camden through incentives from the Grow NJ Program, created under the Economic Opportunity Act.
Local officials have had Murphy in their sights since public hearings of the EDA task force began last month, in part examining the process taken by several businesses relocating to Camden on tax credits.
The statement marks at least their fourth public callout of the governor this month, which began with a scathing critcism made on May 2.
"Using Trenton attack dogs to try to destroy any of the more than two dozen companies which are making major investments in Camden makes it harder to attract new ones here, and that hurts the people of Camden," Moran said in a Friday statement.
"By selecting only a few (businesses) to attack, Gov. Murphy casts a pall over all of them," the statement continued.
Isherwood noted the investigation and task force began as the result of a report by the state comptroller, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, that found oversight issues in assuring companies met the standards agreed upon in exchange for the tax credits.
"The focus of the task force has never been about one geography or one company or one person," Isherwood said in an email. "It’s always been about determining if taxpayer dollars - including those paid by the residents of Camden – have been spent wisely, and to ensure that the program works for everybody, not just a select few."
Jenkins said in his segment that Murphy has "never wanted to be a partner, and frankly, it hurts our city and its people.”
Cruz-Perez added: “As Camden’s representative in Trenton, I will continue to strongly advocate for the city and ensure that legislative and public initiatives originating in Trenton will benefit Camden just as they do North Jersey communities. And if Phil Murphy is willing to work with us toward those goals, great. But if not, he shouldn’t come here.”
But Isherwood pointed to Murphy's commitment to Camden through more than $310 million allocated in school funding; more than $54 million to county transportation; and more than $180 million in property tax relief, earmarked under three separate programs.
"I’m confident that, when all is said and done, this administration will have done more for Camden than any other administration in New Jersey history," Isherwood said.