Freeholders Adopt Extra Measures on Pay-to-Play and Petition State for Better State Law & Enforcement

Published On March 10, 2014 » 663 Views» By Charles Powers » Bergen County Governmental Integrity
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On February 19, as they were achieving a policy reversal by re-tightening the County’s Pay to Play ordinance passed just last Spring, several Freeholders promised additional action on this anti-corruption issue. As they did so, several Freeholders acknowledged that no matter what the County does, it will be unable itself to stop the “wheeling” into and around county prohibitions and thus the risk of the potentially corrupting role of large un- or under-regulated political contributions by current and aspiring public contractors remains.  To overcome these loopholes and gaps inherent in New Jersey having 241 state, county and municipal P to P laws, the Freeholders, citing the lineage of their own law, said they would soon petition the state to pass a strong law that would achieve better protection by standardizing and pre-empting the polyglot of laws in these lower-level jurisdictions. The next action would come In two weeks, the Chair predicted.

Rarely does a law-making body beat its own projected timeline for legislative action – but 13 days later on Tuesday, March 4, the Freeholders passed not one but two P to P resolutions, each of which appealed for new state action.  As noted, that first Resolution, 187-14, represented a joint call by a united Freeholder Board joined by the County Executive for passage of this new state pre-emptive legislation. In order for each Freeholder to discuss their reasons, the resolution was labeled a non-consent resolution. But all seven Freeholders, including John Felice (the one “no” vote on the 2/19 county measure) agreed and County Administrator Ed Trawinski again indicated the County Executive’s concurrence and active support.

It was the second measure – Resolution 188-14 –  that came somewhat as a surprise. Written and offered by Freeholder DeNicola and seconded by Freeholder Tedesco, this resolution strongly urges state action to fix the underfunded and thus hamstrung Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), the state agency currently charged with enforcing a full-range of election laws and the entity on which current laws at every level depend upon for assuring election transparency and compliance. The impaired condition of this agency — and specifically its archaic and faltering computer system — had been identified as a major problem not only by Senator Weinberg but by each of the 4 other county officials participating in the Bergen Grassroots 2/17 workshop (see earlier story).

Discussion of this second measure indicated very strong Freeholder concern about the potential for abuse resulting from financial neglect of ELEC as an institution. The unanimous and intense concern is reflected in the Resolution’s urgency, addressed to both the legislature and the Governor, that these state officials find an early fix. Three Freeholders, DeNicola, Zur and Ganz, specifically indicated appreciation to Bergen Grassroots for hosting the 2/17 Pay-to-Play workshop meeting at which this issue was identified and several thanked Senator Weinberg for initiating and informing the discussion.

CLICK HERE to find quotations from several Freeholders and the Bergen Grassroots President about this second resolution, and the two resolutions themselves.

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