Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Court Rules Atlantic County Violated Pay-to-Play Ordinance; Auditing Firm Banned for 4-Years

Freeholder Colin Bell
Today, a Superior Court judge ruled that Atlantic County violated its own Pay-to-Play Ordinance when it awarded an $88,000.00 no-bid contract to Ford-Scott & Associates to perform auditing work despite the fact that it had made large political contributions to campaign accounts controlled by Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles.  

The Ordinance prohibits the award of a contract to a business that makes a donation of more than $300 to "the current holder of any elective County office."  Freeholder Colin Bell (D-At Large) pointed out the pay-to-play violation before the Freeholder Board approved it and was the only Freeholder to vote against the illegal contract.  

A copy of the judge's decision is available here and a copy of the resolution awarding the contract to Ford-Scott is available here.

"The County Executive and majority on the Freeholder Board are constantly touting our Pay-to-Play restrictions as the toughest in the state," said Freeholder Bell.  "Yet they ignored those restrictions and awarded an illegal contract to Ford-Scott despite the fact it had given large, disqualifying contributions to Sheriff Balles's campaigns."  

Bell pointed out that Ford-Scott made no secret it supported Republicans for public office and even copied Republican County Chairman Keith Davis when it submitted its contract application to the County.  When Bell raised these concerns at the Freeholder Board meeting, he was outvoted 8-1 and the illegal contract was awarded over his objection.  

The Superior Court has now banned Ford-Scott from working for Atlantic County for 4-years as a sanction for its part in the improper conduct.
"The sad part is that Atlantic County went to Court and fought for Ford-Scott in the face of clear evidence that the Pay-to-Play Ordinance was violated," said Bell.  "In these tough economic times, the County should not have spent taxpayer dollars for lawyers fighting to protect politically connected power-brokers and their no-bid contracts." 

Freeholder Bell is calling on Sheriff Balles to donate all of the illegal contributions to charity and for the County to conduct a thorough review of all contracts to ensure no other violations have occurred. 

"Pay-to-play restrictions apply to everyone.  No one is above the law, and I will continue to fight to ensure these meaningful restrictions are not only in place, but are also enforced," said Bell.


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