Hook developer’s wallet turned out to be empty

In Richard Wells’ recent letter, he incorrectly stated that a local citizens group, Save Sandy Hook, wanted to tear down some unused buildings at Fort Hancock.

The group never ever took this position. Instead, the group concentrated its criticism on the National Park Service’s plan to lease 36 of the fort buildings for 60 years to an inexperienced developer for commercial purposes. The group argued that the “almost criminal neglect” of the buildings by the park service, to quote one newspaper editorial, didn’t justify allowing commercial, non-park operations to sneak into Fort Hancock.

In presumably justifying the National Park Service’s abysmal maintenance of Fort Hancock for three decades, including the 10- year period when Mr. Wells as an assistant superintendent and then-superintendent helped keep the financially strapped developer afloat, Wells incorrectly said two federal district courts ruled the National Park Service did not violate any federal law in leasing Fort Hancock buildings.

The courts never said any such thing. Both courts narrowly ruled against Save Sandy Hook’s suit, stating the citizens group lacked “standing” to sue. Neither court considered nor commented on the merits of the citizens’ complaints.

In fact, the Park Service’s inspector general — after prodding by Rep. Frank Pallone — admitted that indeed there were irregularities in how the Park Service picked its inexperienced developer.


hat now must be investigated

is why, since 1999, the Park Service during Mr. Wells’ watch granted at least 11 extensions to the developer to raise the funds he was supposed to have in hand when he submitted his proposal. What also must be investigated is another gift, a bogus “lease” the Park Service said it granted the developer in 2004 — when he still didn’t have the funding required by federal law. A stealthily signed third “lease” in 2007, based on the bogus 2004 lease for three buildings that had been repaired and maintained by taxpayers’ dollars and funds from a private foundation, also deserves a closer look.

But when the Park Service finally asked the developer, “What’s in your wallet,” and the wallet proved to be empty, it recently dropped him as Fort Hancock’s developer. About time. But the systemic irregularities of the National Parks bureaucracy at the fort must be investigated to prevent future commercial invasions of our national parks.
George Moffatt
(Mr. Moffatt is a board member

of Save Sandy Hook)