“Pay to Play” issue still not resolved
Why the holdup?
“The City of Hoboken’s deplorable financial situation is big news. Short of drastic cuts in services – or more financial gimmickry like that which brought us to our current state of affairs – Hobokenites will see a large increase in their property taxes. Hoboken should move immediately to cut any spending that will not lessen essential services. The settlement of a 2005 lawsuit brought against the city by a local good government group would help control the city’s legal costs, assure taxpayers that the city’s no-bid contract process remains free from corrupt and costly practices, and finally put an old issue to rest.
In 2004, People for Open Government (POG) introduced a Public Contracting Pay-to-Play Reform ordinance that was approved by a 9-1 margin of Hoboken voters. The enacted ordinance both limited and prohibited campaign contributions made to local candidates and officeholders by professional business entities that had no-bid contracts with the city. In early 2005, the Roberts Team accepted what POG alleged were illegal contributions from individuals and firms that had such contracts. In June 2005, POG filed a lawsuit in Hudson County Superior Court to compel the city to enforce its laws.
To date, the issue has still not been put to rest. Though POG won a favorable ruling in January from the NJ Appellate Division allowing us to move forward with the case, we were inclined shortly thereafter to put accusation and retribution aside and make an offer of settlement. The offer, presented to the city’s attorneys in March, discharges all claims against defendants and simply requires that the city designate a compliance officer responsible for enforcing the ordinance and maintaining a readily available list of no-bid firms and redevelopers for public inspection. The City Council has been slow to agree to the settlement and certain members are said to be contemplating an expensive legal challenge to the ordinance itself. I strongly urge the City Council to agree to what I consider a virtually painless settlement offer, thereby saving the city considerable legal costs and allowing all parties involved to direct their attentions to other matters.”
Eric S Kurta
President, People for Open Government