Bill Whelan and the Democrat controlled freeholder board are playing games with CCIA contracts. Normally these contracts are renewed at the end of a fiscal year, not in the 3rd quarter. However, the Democrat leadership suspects that they are definitely going to lose their majority this election year. They have these contracts up using an “exception rule” which is basically a way for them to sidestep pay-to-play laws and reward donors and supporters. This is dirty back-room politics at its worst, but then what did we expect from a Freeholder Director that was groomed for the position by Lou Magazzu?
Controversial CCIA Contracts; Pass Ethics Law to Really End “Virtual Pay to Play”
Fair & Open Exception Called Fatally Flawed by State Comptroller: FH Dir. Whelan Responsible
Millville – The combined Cumberland County Republican team today called upon the Democrat-led Freeholder Board to pass a resolution demanding the Cumberland County Improvement Authority (CCIA) withdraw several recent contracts offered under the so-called “fair and open exception” which the State Comptroller likened to the status quo prior to the enactment of pay to play laws.
The action is even more troubling as County Freeholder Director Bill Whelan, who also serves as Board’s liaison to the CCIA, apparently did not act to stop the Authority’s issuance of these contracts under the exception even after the Comptroller’s report was issued.
“The contracts issued under this exception are simply a virtual pay to play scheme which seeks to enrich political supporters at the expense of honest taxpayers,” said Jody Farabella. “It’s simply wrong and the Freeholder Board should demand the CCIA cancel these contract offerings and the Board should move without delay pass a strong ethics law to prevent any future occurrence.“
“The failure to rein in this practice at the CCIA is very troubling for me and should be for everyone,” said Mary Gruccio. “These types of contracts serve only to erode the public’s trust in government and could raise costs for county taxpayers.”
State Comptroller Matthew Boxer issued a report (available here) on the “fair and open exception” on September 15, 2011 calling the practice had “fatal flaws.” “Qualifying for the fair and open exception returns the local government entity to the essentially unregulated system of contracting that existed before the pay to play law – and qualifying is ridiculously easy.” Boxer stated at a September press conference where he unveiled the report.
“When the state’s top watchdog criticizes a government practice as strongly as he did, it takes a rare and breathtaking leap of arrogance from our county’s leaders to engage in that practice just days later,” said Sandy Taylor. “The members of the Freeholder Board must demand that every department and agency of this county avoid any appearance of favoritism.”
The CCIA is an independent authority but does receive a portion of its funding from the Freeholder Board. The contracts in question were published in recent editions of the Press of Atlantic City, the Daily Journal, and the News of Cumberland County.