Fortunately, former Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet is still on the job as a outspoken member of the public. The Middletown Patch reported on 1/31/12 that this year’s all-GOP Freeholder Board voted unanimously last week to loosen the County’s pay-to-play rules, and Amy was there to call them on it!
In a vote on Jan. 26th, the Board chose to abandon the tougher County pay-to-play rules for the lax State ones. The reason given by the Board is that contractors were confused by the County rules. However, many other municipalities and counties have the stronger pay-to-play rules in place, so contractors doing business in other towns would already be familiar with them.
The Board’s decision opens the door to rewarding politically connected persons and businesses with County contracts. The move weakens competition and may have the direct effect of increasing property taxes in line with higher contract costs. It’s hard to imagine why any ethical publicly-minded governmental body would do such a thing, unless for personal benefit. It appears the Board members have chosen to grant themselves the latitude to direct contracts at will to ensure their pockets will be lined at election time.
State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said himself that the State pay-to-play law does nothing to prevent the practice by local governments. In September 2011, he released a 20-page report “blasting the law for being toothless” as NJ.com put it.
The effectiveness of Christie’s Tool Kit at holding down property taxes would be vastly improved if it closed the loopholes in the State’s pay-to-play law. But until that happens, it is incumbent upon local governments to do what’s right by having strong pay-to-play rules of their own.
Public advocacy group The Citizens Campaign is calling for the public to attend the Monmouth County Freeholder meeting on Feb. 9th, when the Board will be asked to reinstate the stronger pay-to-play policy. For details, check out their facebook page and if you can, make plans to attend.