NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - An otherwise typical recitation of the state of the borough by Mayor J. Brooke Hern Thursday became interesting when the Mayor opened the floor to questions and a displeased Al Morgan challenged Hern about an alleged incident at a local gas station.

Morgan, a New Providence business owner, a Board member of the New Providence Business & Professional Association, and the borough’s mayor between 1999 and 2006, stated that NP Fuel’s owner Don Murphy had been “vilified” by an anonymous posting on an online newspaper forum. The blogger claimed that on Jan. 12 she did not receive the $20 worth of gas at NP Fuel she had paid for.

The blog post called for a “boycott” of NP Fuel.

Sign Up for E-News

Morgan defended Murphy’s honesty as a business owner and praised his contributions to the borough’s civic life.

Hern said he didn’t know the details of the incident, but Morgan said, that it involved ”your girlfriend.”

“I’m not involved in it,” Hern said.

He said he and Murphy had a brief discussion about the incident before the start of the New Providence Business and Professional Association meeting at Creative Wallcoverings and Interiors.

Some members of the Association at the meeting appeared unaware of the anonymous posting on nj.com and tried to defuse the situation.  Hern then told Morgan, that “this was not the venue to bring up” the alleged incident, and to do so was “despicable.”

“You’re quoting (Newt) Gingrich?” Morgan asked.

“I’ll quote him,” Hern said, “This is wrong and you know it.”

The mayor later claimed that politics was behind Morgan’s question.

Hern defeated Morgan for the Republican nomination for mayor in the 2010 primary.  Morgan endorsed Hern after the Republican primary and publicly campaigned for him.  Morgan is currently the Chairman of the New Providence Republican Committee.

Gary Kapner, in whose business the meeting took place, said he had written a letter to the editor of TheAlternativePress.com seeking to calm the situation.

The letter in part says, “I have been a customer of NP Fuel for twenty years and I have never had a problem there. Don Murphy, the owner of NP Fuel, is an active and generous member of the New Providence business community and I know him to be a reasonable man. There are always two sides to any story, whether there was a misunderstanding, an error or something else. I would like to believe that reasonable people can settle a business dispute like adults and not resort to anonymous muckraking.”

While outlining the business activity in the borough in the past year, Hern said, “The state of New Providence is good. We are ahead of the county, ahead of the state, and in many ways, ahead of the nation.”

He said the effort is being led by an active business community and a responsive borough council, which has changed the way the borough approached business activity.

Among key governmental changes, Hern said, was the consolidation of several offices into a department of planning and development that streamlines the government processes faced by business owners.

He also touted the creation of a business development committee comprised of borough officials and business owners.

The third, and biggest change, he said was the passage last November of the referendum that gave the council the power to sell up to four consumption liquor licenses.

He said borough restaurants could get the opportunity for new customers and restaurants from outside the borough are expressing interest in bidding for a license. Hern said the first license could be ready for sale mid-year.

Hern said that the addition of new business will be a plus for existing businesses.

“There is no such thing as negative competition,” he said. “When economists talk about economic growth they talk about the ripple effect. New businesses lift everyone.”

He said the goal of the council is not just to attract outside businesses to New Providence, but to support existing family businesses and encourage the establishment of new family businesses.