Comtec – the smoking gun

Last week I posted a teaser concerning Comtec, a local company that was deliberately discriminated against by our Freeholder board in order to give a contract to a Cherry Hill based company in George Norcross territory. Below is a gallery of scanned documents, just a few of the hundreds that I had to read and scour, just to figure out this story for myself.

There are valid reasons for not selecting the lowest bidder for a project, such as qualifications or ability to perform the services. Other factors that would negate a company being chosen would be failure to comply with all aspects of the big request. I am confident that none of these reasons apply, after hours of research. I will now share what I found – a story that the local media to date has adamantly refused to cover.

The first six documents are the bids by the three lowest bidders. The first two are Aloha, the third lowest – and a company in George Norcross territory. They were apparently promised a Cumberland County job, and Lou Magazzu’s band of cronies were hell bent on making sure that they were awarded the bid. The second two pages are the New Jersey Business Systems bid, and pages 5 and 6 are Comtec.

The three lowest bidders were: Comtec at $29,327.90; NJ Business Systems at $30,594.70 and Aloha at $31,450.00. You can imagine Lou’s quandary when the firm he promised a job to came in third place. After all, the bid specified only the top two firms would be selected. And this was after sending the bid out two times to ensure that this camden County firm get the job.

Scan #7 is from the original bid specifications.I find it humorous that a living wage is not required to be paid. The definition of that term is probably different than the connotation, but it did put a smile on my face. However, I direct you to the “Apprentice Program” being checked “NO”. This will come in handy further on.

The next scan specifies that the bidder base their bids on technicians and technician’s helpers, and the award would be given the “two lowest responsible bidders”.

The two lowest bidders were Comtec from Cumberland County, a firm with twenty years of experience – and NJBS, a firm from Mercer County with 15 years experience. In my opinion, 20-years of solid experience, with many accolades from the communications industry makes Comtec a “responsible” bidder.

What to do? Magazzu promised Norcorss this project, and now he has to figure out a way to disqualify County residents from gainful employment! Brendan Kavanaugh to the rescue!

The next scan is part of Kavanaugh’s defense.

Now some history. Michael Vertolli called the county business offices regularly, after the bid date, to find out where he landed. Month after month they stonewalled him. The Freeholders continued to table the bid, as they struggled to find a way out. He won, and they had to find a loophole, some way to exclude this company.

Michael also says that he was approached to contribute to political campaigns. Mike is a businessman, and tries to stay politically neutral. he has donated a little here and there to candidates he supports, but for the most part is not going to make the huge donations to a party that would ensure special treatment. As Magazzu watch has uncovered in previous exposes, it is quite apparent that to be appointed a judge, or to obtain a politically appointed job, or to qualify for any bid in the county – you must support the Norcross machine (an end run around the pay-to-play laws). It is quite simple – give to Norcross and get a Cumberland County bid or give to Cumberland County machine and get a job in Camden or Gloucester. This has happened too many times to be coincidental.

Michael also says that he was told by an agent of the county that he could have this bid, but he would have to hire Camden County workers, not his own people.

So Kavanaugh cooks up a lame story that since Comtec, which is a non-union shop (and the county made it clear to him that they were ONLY going to give this job to union shops – excluding Cumberland County residents from their right to gainful employment) they did not have employees currently enrolled in an apprentice program.

Nowhere in the bid is there any requirement to have apprentices employed at the time of the bid – ONLY that apprentice, referred to as “technician’s helpers” in the bid be paid prevailing wage. I refer you to item 11 on the 9th scan – where Kavanaugh claims that $43 an hour is below the prevailing wage for an apprentice.

I also refer to scan 10, where Kavanaugh state that Comtec didn’t have an authorized apprentice program. Also to the double-talk on scan 11. This argument is contrary to NJ state law and defies common sense. Non-union shops cannot have an apprenticeship program that is approved – and they typically draw from the Vo-tech, which does have an approved program for bid on government jobs such as this. This is solid, basic and accepted practice.

They were drawing at straws for any reason to exclude the winner – for the sole purpose of giving the jobs to Norcross cronies. Scan 12, from February 2010 is a copy of the original resolution awarding the contract to Comtec, before Lou on behalf of Norcross stepped in to negate the obvious winner.

By now you are wondering why we are concerned about bids for $30,000, with a variation of little more than $2,000. $2,000 is not going to hurt the taxpayers that much. You have to realize the numbers in these bids are not real, solid numbers. They are based on an arbitrary amount of work. Last year, the total amount paid for these sorts of projects totaled more than $150,000. Multiply that variance, and the cost to Cumberland County taxpayers increases significantly – not to mention that our money is going out of our county, to Camden and Mercer. Wee are the county with the highest unemployment rate, and Lou Magazzu bends over backwards to deny employment to local residents.

It is time that our current Freeholders make the right decision. Award Comtec the bid it rightfully won. Nelson Thompson and Joe Pepitone – two of the conspirators, lost their last bid for election. Dunkins and Jannarone, two more conspirators, have willingly bid out of the race. Lou Magazzu is the last conspirator – and he may not run for re-election – at least we can only hope. However, we have three republicans on the board now. We have a local Democrat businessman as Freeholder Director. It is time for our businessmen to start looking out for Cumberland County businesses, and to end that pay-to-play stigma that is a part of local politics.


5 Responses to Comtec – the smoking gun

  1. new2cumberland says:

    Was the requirement that the contract only be awarded to a union shop in the original RFP? Because if it wasn’t, the county later giving the requirement that only union shops be considered could be deemed as arbitrary & capricious. Sometimes that is enough to overturn the award without getting involved with all these very ugly politicians around here.

  2. mumbles says:

    why doesn’t Comtec hire a lawyer?

  3. mumbles says:

    oops, looks like they did. What I find objectionable is the fact that the legislature may have passed a bill designed solely for the benefit of unions. To require apprentice programs is not to help new workers, it is to freeze out non-union shops who don’t have them. what is an apprenticeship all about? For some it is nothing more than bringing the kids along in the union tradition. For others it is a scam to keep the bid process out of the competitive range. We are talking about installing phones aren’t we? This isn’t high tension wire work or erecting steel from 500 feet in the air. What would an apprentice in this area do, text his buddies? Bidding sucks when the rules are stacked against you.

  4. If you say ,is all true and the law has been twisted but not broken what dose one have to do to win a bid if #1 you are a cumberland county busness #2 if you are not a union company. Look at the njmsp when hey first announced all these good paying jobs with benefits.. I bet if there are a dozen of them there you are lucky. I wonder how much money in campaine money went too the democracts from the officers of the njmsp. This was going to be the savior of cumberland county. This fall we need a change starting at the state level down to the local levels. Maybe the voters will finally wake up and put all new people in office.

  5. baba says:

    What new people do you want? If you refer to the usual candidates on both sides then there really isn’t any change. They both have their supporters and contributors and don’t be fooled by promises. “vote for me because you don’t like them” is old news and doesn’t cut it. Tell me what your new candidate will do. Tell me now, not after the election.

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