Ocean Gate Mayor Paul Kennedy, who faces charges that he stole change from parking meters and sold government property and kept the money, has hired a top criminal defense attorney.
William P. Cunningham, who spent more than 30 years as an assistant Ocean County prosecutor, is representing Kennedy.
The investigation into Kennedy has been prepared by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office and not the state Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability, which more typically looks at local corruption allegations.
Kennedy has admitted his role in the theft, Lindsay Llauget, a detective for the prosecutor’s office, said in a criminal complaint filed last month.
“Kennedy admitted to taking these checks and putting them into his own personal checking account,” Llauget said in a complain she signed. “He confirmed he used the funds for his own personal expenses. He was also still in possession of the money from the kiosk.”
As a career local prosecutor, Cunningham can potentially help Kennedy secure his best possible deal.
Cunningham is a partner at Starkey, Kelley, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach, a politically active firm allied with Democrats.
Terrance Turnbach, a former Toms River councilman and a candidate for Ocean County Democratic chairman in the upcoming June election, said that his firm does criminal defense work, although he isn’t personally involved in the Kennedy case.
“We represent people who call us. There’s no screening to ask political affiliation,” Turnbach said. “We would bever turn somebody away based on their political affiliation.”
Turnbach said that Cunningham is one of the premier criminal defense attorneys in the area.
“If you’re in trouble in Ocean County, people are coming to Bill Cunningham,” he said.
The complaint shows that prosecutors executed a search warrant against him, that cash was recovered, and that he made statements or admissions that were recorded by a “stationhouse interview camera room.”
“Kennedy was also responsible for collecting the money from the parking meters in town. The meters operate between May and September,” said Llauget. “Kennedy had not deposited the most recent collection from the kiosk and was still in possession of the change.”
Kennedy is charged with selling a 2008 Honda Pilot owned by the borough in a 2017 auction on a website called GovDeals.com. and then depositing a $6,021 check into his personal account. Kennedy is accused of having the check mailed to his own post office box. He also received checks totaling $2,506 and $1,119 in 2019 for other municipal vehicles he sold.
According to the complaint, the probe revealed that the “back of the check was endorsed and deposited into a TD Bank account which was found to belong to Paul Kennedy.”
He also sold a $250 conference table owned by Ocean Gate on a Facebook Marketplace account that belonged to his wife.