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Belleville Township Hall. (Photo: Township of Belleville).

DeLorenzo, cleared by attorney general’s office, continues lawsuit against Belleville

By David Wildstein, January 09 2023 7:11 am

The longtime Belleville building inspector unfairly accused of improperly billing developers for time he spent at planning and zoning board meetings and later exonerated by the state attorney general, is suing the municipality for allegedly harassing him.

“Frank DeLorenzo is a decades-long public servant who has served his community honorably,” said his attorney for the state’s probe, Lee Vartan.  “The Attorney General heard the undisputed evidence and closed its investigation.”

DeLorenzo was accused of was “typing up his own invoices for arbitrary dollar amounts and taking money from [the Township] developer escrow account for attending meetings.”

“The administration alleged that Frank was stealing from developers,” Vartan said.  “Those allegations sparked an investigation from the New Jersey Attorney General, which Frank met head on. We showed that the allegations were false.”

DeLorenzo was able to show that the invoices were submitted to the township, reviewed and approved.  He was paid from developer escrow funds.

“The developers were, of course, appropriately noticed and invoiced,” Vartan said.  “At the end of each year, the Township provided Frank with a 1099, and Frank paid all taxes on the additional income.”

In 1998, Belleville adopted an ordinance providing DeLorenzo with a $17,292 stipend to cover his attendance at planning and zoning board meetings, and authorized him to be paid for special meetings from the developer escrow account.

DeLorenzo alleges that he faced retaliation from Mayor Michael Melham for denying him a building permit that he claimed violated Belleville’s building code.  Melham has denied this.

The whistleblower lawsuit was filed in August and the township filed their answer last month.  Superior Court Judge Richard Sules has not yet scheduled a trial date.

DeLorenzo began a seven-year stint working for Belleville in 1981 and rejoined the  township in 1991 as a building department employee.  He became building inspector in 1995 and the construction official and zoning official in 1999.

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