The president of Main Street Mount Holly used $7,000 from a federal CARES ACT grant to pay his wife to administer a $157,297 Main Street New Jersey COVID-19 Relief grant despite an apparent rule that bans family members from profiting.
Joseph Lamberti, who runs the local economic development group, picked his wife, Christi, to handle administrative issues involving the grant. She is a medical secretary at Virtua Health, according to her LinkedIn page.
The hiring of Christi Lamberti came despite a certification to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which approved the application, that “members of our organization’s governing body nor members of their families will receive any direct or indirect personal or monetary gain from the funding of this grant.”
Kent R. Pipes, the vice president of Main Street Mount Holly, defended Christi Lamberti’s performance as the grant administrator.
“She did a wonderful job. I’m sure she worked below market rate,” he said. “We’re an organization with integrity. Nobody’s going to steal anything or do anything unethical.”
In an application, the group said the funds would be used to help local businesses rebound from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With these funds, we expect the downtown Main Street District business to get a financial ‘shot in the arm’ to buffer the financial stress and draining of their limited financial reserves just trying to keep open and operating during a most unforeseen and difficult period,” The Mount Holly proposal stated.
Pipes said he was unaware of a condition in the grant that seems to prohibit the hiring of relatives, although he signed a document that specifically acknowledges the anti-nepotism regulation.
“I don’t know what happened or how we’re going to handle that,” Pipes told the New Jersey Globe. “Maybe she’ll have to pay it back.”