Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on January 26, 2024, Paul Kennedy, 68, of Ocean Gate, was sentenced by the Honorable Kimarie Rahill, J.S.C., to three years New Jersey State Prison as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to the crime of Pattern of Official Misconduct. The sentence is subject to a two-year term of parole ineligibility. Additionally, Kennedy is permanently disqualified from holding any future public office or employment. Kennedy pled guilty to the charge before Judge Rahill on September 22, 2023.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Professional Standards/Corruption Unit and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Squad. The investigation revealed that Kennedy, in his capacity as Mayor of the Borough of Ocean Gate, failed to turn over proceeds from the sale of borough assets – sold by way of the government auction website GovDeals.com – and instead took possession of those proceeds for his own personal benefit. Investigation further revealed that Kennedy failed to deposit borough parking meter funds in the borough’s bank account, and that he sold borough office furniture through a private Facebook Marketplace account, attempting to keep the proceeds for his own personal benefit.
On March 18, 2022, Kennedy was charged with Official Misconduct and Theft, and surrendered himself to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office. He was released on a summons pending future appearances in Ocean County Superior Court.
Continuing investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Professional Standards/Corruption Unit and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Squad determined that Kennedy collected cash from the sale of scrap metal originating in the Borough Recycling Center, and then failed to turn the proceeds over to the Borough. Likewise, as Mayor, Kennedy converted funds donated by contributors to “Friends of Ocean Gate” for his re-election campaign, as well as the campaign of his running mates, for his personal benefit. As a consequence, Kennedy was charged with additional counts of Official Misconduct. On May 4, 2022, Kennedy surrendered himself to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office. He was released on a summons pending future appearances in Ocean County Superior Court.
“This is a textbook example of public corruption: the leveraging of one’s official public position to gain unlawful personal benefits,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “The overwhelming majority of public officials perform their duties with integrity and honor. Mr. Kennedy, however, took advantage of the very citizens he was sworn to serve. He was elected to serve the people of Ocean Gate, yet he prioritized his personal interests and greed over the needs of his constituents. This is unacceptable conduct – conduct that only serves to undermine the public’s faith and confidence in public officials. My office will continue to investigate and prosecute such breaches of public trust to the fullest extent of the law,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco who handled the case on behalf of the State, and commends the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Professional Standards/Corruption Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Squad, Ocean Gate Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation leading to Kennedy’s guilty plea, and now his state prison sentence.