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Council to Hear Out Pay-to-Play Proponents in June

Also, the end-of-night fireworks witnessed May 9 continued at Monday's Council meeting.

A citizens group's proposal for a pay-to-play ban in the township turned into a rather lengthy question-and-answer session between a proponent and councilman during Monday's Council meeting.

The end result: It appears South Jersey Citizens (SJC) will at least get an opportunity to pitch its proposal to Council in more detail, possibly as soon as Council's June 6 workshop meeting.

"I think we're obligated to look at that to see if we can mesh it into what the state has set forth for us to follow, and if we can improve upon that ..." Councilman Dan Hutchison said. "I'm not saying we're going to, but I'm saying we should at least look at it."

Beyond the obvious goal of potentially helping to reduce taxes, the underlying motive for the proposed pay-to-play ban is a simple one, according to SJC member Joshua Berry, a Broadacres Drive resident.

"In my opinion, someone who is expecting to get government money should not be able to donate (to political campaigns)," he said. "That should be a limit on free speech."

SJC has presented Council with a copy of the ordinance, which was crafted several years ago by Citizens’ Campaign. Should Council fail to adopt the ordinance, SJC plans to put it to the people through the initiative and referendum process.

Citizens' Campaign says nearly 100 New Jersey towns have adopted its suggested play-to-play ordinance.

Berry warned that failing to pass the pay-to-play ban might jeopardize shared-services agreements with Cherry Hill Township, which passed the model ordinance in 2008 and has joined forces with the township on a number of recent contracts.

"Contractors and vendors right now, dealing with a patchwork of laws, don't know what to do," he said.

Hutchison suggested SJC and other like-minded groups propose stronger statewide pay-to-play legislation to avoid the "patchwork" pitfall.

"By enacting more stringent pay-to-play ordinances than the state has currently enacted, we then make it more difficult to enter into shared-services agreements with other municipalities. So, shouldn't the focus be on getting the state to change its pay-to-play ordinance rather than 566 municipalities to change it? Aren't we approaching it from the wrong end?"

Berry agreed to contact Assemblyman Dominick DiCicco (R-4), whom he essentially labeled a like-minded supporter of pay-to-play reform, to pitch the idea that Citizens' Campaign's ordinance be considered on a statewide level. He is less than confident anything will get done in Trenton.

"Our Legislature: cowards," he said. "Everyone passes this locally, then it won't matter what the state does."

Hilltop Avenue resident Russell Burt opposes the proposed pay-to-play ban for many of the reasons offered by Hutchison as potential obstructions to getting business done.

"It's unnecessary and redundant," he said. "The state of New Jersey actually has the most restrictive pay-to-play policy—laws—in effect."

"Pay to play" is the label given to awarding campaign contributors with municipal positions or contracts. Gloucester Township currently has no ban on the practice. Thirteen other Camden County towns, including Cherry Hill, do, according to the New Jersey Department of State.

SJC's top argument in favor of pay-to-play reform is the perception that it feeds the so-called "good ol' boy network"—real or not.

"If you have a donor who has been giving large sums of money but is doing a poor job serving the town, will most people fire them? I don't know," Berry said. "I'm not sure I could. Maybe the seven of you are better than I am."

"The perception of government is that without a strict pay-to-play law, our government is for sale," he added. "I don't think that perception is reality, but certainly stopping that practice would help change that perception."

SJC is prepared to launch a citizens’ initiative in the event that Council will not pass its proposed pay-to-play ordinance. As a town governed under the Faulkner Act, citizens can petition Council to vote directly on an ordinance. If Council votes no, the issue becomes a referendum question during the next general election.

It would need about 1,750 township residents' signatures, amounting to 10 percent of the total votes in the last odd-numbered year general election, to move forward.

In other news from Monday's meeting, Gloucester Township Republican Municipal Committee Chairman Ray Polidoro called for Hutchison to apologize to Councilwoman Crystal Evans for his behavior during a heated debate between the two Council members at the governing body's May 9 meeting.

"Please pick your words and choose what you're saying carefully at the end of the (meeting), because, from now on, I'm going to remind our fellow residents what you have said at the prior meeting and left off at," Polidoro warned Council.

Polidoro asserted Evans was right to reject Council President Glen Bianchini's invite to sit on a Council subcommittee to evaluate rejected school budgets.

"This is the same councilwoman that was overlooked to serve on the Black History Month commission," he said. "It's ironic she wasn't asked to serve on that committee, but on a school budget (committee). Furthermore, finding out that she was being asked to be on this committee in the presence of the public ... it's a little edgy."

In explaining that he would not offer Evans an apology, Hutchison contended he was "shouted down" by Evans during the May 9 meeting while attempting to ascertain why Evans rejected the subcommittee position.

Of her decision to reject the position, Evans said during Monday night's meeting: "I did not want to serve. End of story. This is not 1959. I do not have to sit on the back of the bus."

Joshua Berry May 24, 2011 at 05:41 PM
I spoke with the Citizens Campaign this morning about enacting the state-wide ban by working through my local Assemblyman as Councilman Hutchinson suggested. They are already working with Assemblyman DiCicco. According to them, DiCicco is in favor of the P2P law but there is not much support from the rest of the legislature. He cannot do it alone. We still meet with him to see what our options are, but as I commented last night the Legislature has had the opportunity to pass it before and chose not to. Russel and I spoke later in the meeting. In my opinion, the limits he was quoting was not the state pay to pay law, but the strict limits from the ordinance proposed last night. I checked the state P2P law to confirm this earlier today. Because of Council's email system, most of the members did not have an opportunity to read the packet I sent them on Thursday. In it is an FAQ from the Citizens Campaign. It can be found at http://www.southjerseycitizens.org/P2P-FAQ.html This covers differences between the state pay to play law and this one. I look forward to working with Council on moving this ordinance forward, and sincerely thank them for the opportunity to present it in more detail June 6th.
Joshua Berry May 24, 2011 at 05:43 PM
From the FAQ (Gloucester Township has selected many of their vendors through a "fair and open process"): A statewide Pay-to-Play reform law went into effect 1/1/06. Why should a municipality or county pass this model ordinance when there are already public contracting regulations from the state? 1. The state law established a very loose standard, which allows a county to opt out of the contribution limits and award contracts through a "fair and open" process. Any professional that receives a professional service contract through a "fair and open" process, does not have to abide by any contribution limits. * The model ordinance sets limits for any professional service contract, whether given through a non-fair or "fair and open" process. 2. The “Fair and Open Process” is loophole laden and doesn’t address the post-contract award period. There are no protections from pay-to-play after a contract has been awarded and there is no more competition. 3. The state law only sets limits on contributions to the governing bodies that are awarding the contracts. For example, if a lawyer is giving a contribution to the mayor of Smallville, then that lawyer couldn't get a contract from Smallville. However, that lawyer could give a contribution to the county political party where Smallville is located. That money can then be funneled down to the mayor of Smallville from the county party. * Our ordinance limits contributions to the county and local parties.
John Reynolds May 24, 2011 at 07:03 PM
The word according to Dan: "... so, shouldn't the focus be on getting the state to change its pay-to-play ordinance rather than 566 municipalities to change it? " Good work Joshua. What's the chance of the state enacting a loophole free ordinance ? You can stop laughing now. If council doesn't act in a timely manner on this issue then let us know how to sign the petition.
Darren Gladden May 24, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Joshua good job and I believe in what you are doing ,Now Drama Queen Dan OMG I had nightmares last night about Poor Dan .In the dream Dan and I were talking face to face and all this BS was spitting out of his mouth and I could not get away from it .....OMG I needed that 2500 super dupper pooper scooper picker upper to clean up the mess he left ......Thank god I woke up..Now were was this guy at Last night http://youtu.be/tgJgy0PRaJQ I hope to god he was looking for his Stash cause since he lost it this TOWN been going down hill.......Just care I do
GTWatchdawg May 25, 2011 at 03:04 AM
I believe that Councilman Hutchinson was asked to apologize to the residents as well as Mrs. Evans. Not just Evans. "Polidoro asserted Evans was right to reject Council President Glen Bianchini's invite to sit on a Council subcommittee to evaluate rejected school budgets". (Patch Story quote) I don't remember that being said. The rest sounds close enough. But let's be accurate
Big Daddy 1 May 25, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Thanks Joshua for explaining the "Fair and Open Process". I see that quote in the bid ads all the time, particularly those run by Norcross companies seeking various insurance related contractors. Of course, the same contractors generally get the contracts everywhere and every year. These contractors are known political contributors and Norcross favorites. According to your explanation, these contracts are not subject to limits on contributions by the state scheme. That explains why I have witnessed so many rigged bids over the years. Keep in mind that state laws in NJ are passed based on what is good for north jersey. We have to uncorrupt our own governments down here.
Big Daddy 1 May 25, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Patch has acknowledged that a grass patch covers the words when we try to print these articles. They don't seem to have a high priority toward fixing it.
Darren Gladden May 25, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Don't mean to get off topic but I have something to say ............Remember this weekend and Fly those Flags now it is time for a little Hairplugs speech......Remember What this Weekend is about so when your ass is popping open a nice Cold One or sitting your dumper in the sand remember Freedom is not Free . Now the Mr.Mom in me tells me to tell you peeps with children Teach them there past and Remember the Freedoms they get everyday was PAID for in Blood by people who truely cares ........Just care I do ...God Bless the U.S.A....Peace out Patch peeps
Joshua Berry May 26, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Big Daddy: Anytime. Part of our job is to educate the people on how the government works. If myself, or any one else out there, sees something they don't like it is their responsibility to bring it up and try to change it. P2P will address some of those issues but there is a lot more to do, like best price insurance reform that has saved Cherry Hill millions of dollars a year.

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