State: Zimmer violates Public Contracting Law

2/21/2011 UPDATE: State Comptroller’s inquiry into Zimmer’s award of Public Contracts may expand to Corporation Counsel’s office

NJ Inquiry into Hoboken may expand

Already under fire for awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars of public contracts in a manner that “lacked accountability and transparency,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer may face additional state scrutiny of her choice of City Attorney. Informed sources tell Hoboken411 that the State Comptroller’s sweeping rebuke of Hoboken’s public contracting procedures may expand to include a review of over $300,000 in attorney contracts awarded by Zimmer and her allies to State Senator Ray Lesniak’s law firm.

Tabakin made Corporation Counsel, additional contracts awarded to his firm

In September of 2010, Mayor Zimmer parted ways with her second Corporation Counsel – Michael Kates – who took the fall for her inept bumbling of the sale and relocation of the Municipal Garage. After that $25.5 million dollar debacle launched more lawsuits, Zimmer brought in Weiner Lesniak partner Mark Tabakin to be interim Corporation Counsel.

Tabakin was given a $103,000 contract to work three days a week for Hoboken, plus another $10,000 to work on Municipal Garage Sale-related litigation. On top of that – Tabakin’s politically connected law firm – Weiner Lesniak – was given an additional $200,000 no-bid contract for “other employment related lawsuits” facing the city.

The problem? Tabakin is serving two masters as Corporation Counsel.

Hoboken’s conflicts similar to those already under state investigation in Ridgefield

When Weiner Lesniak’s hourly bills come in for the Corporation Counsel’s review, will Tabakin represent the City of Hoboken’s best interests, or the interests of the firm he’s a partner in? This is yet another frontier the State Comptroller’s office may already be investigating following a similar review in Ridgefield. According to The Bergen Record, Comptroller’s Office Procurement Division Director Dorothy Donnely found the Borough Attorney had double billed the city for his law firm, in effect getting the firm paid twice for service. The attorney, Douglas Doyle, received a retainer AND approved hourly payments for his law firm (DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole) in violation of state guidelines. Donnely also argued that Doyle “routinely” billed at an hourly rate for attending meetings and drafting ordinances and resolutions, despite the fact that such services were included as part of the retainer. It’s believed the Comptroller is now taking a look at Zimmer’s multiple contract arrangements with Weiner Lesniak.

Zimmers auditing firm contract also in question

As Hoboken411 reported first on Saturday, the State Comptroller criticized the awarding of several contracts, including the city’s Auditor contract with the firm of Ferraioli, Wielkotz, Cerullo & Cuva.

At last week’s marathon City Council meeting, Zimmer’s allies implored the Council to reject the low bidders for the auditor contract, which was recommended after review by the council subcommittee, and instead go with Zimmer’s choice of the high bidder – Ferraioli. Two other bidders were ignored by Zimmer as she pushed the $80,000 contract for her choice. 5th ward Councilman Peter Cunningham led the charge to hire the firm whose original contract we now learn the State Comptroller was telling Zimmer was not awarded in “a Fair and Open process.”

Zimmer and Business Administrator Arch Liston knew this was the case – but didn’t inform the City Council of the Comptroller’s findings. The resolution to award the contract this week was tabled by a 5-4 vote. Zimmer’s allies voted against tabling the contract.

After the jump, see the original story Hoboken411 broke this weekend on the scathing February 1st letter from the State Comptroller’s office that Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her directors hid from the public and City Council.

2/19/2011:

BREAKING: State Comptroller steps in to oversee Dawn Zimmer’s Public Contracts, finds City in violation of Public Contracting Laws

Zimmer and Liston hide Comptroller investigation from City Council and Public

The New Jersey State Comptroller is cracking down on violations of Public Contracting laws by the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer. In a letter obtained by Hoboken411 to Business Administrator Arch Liston dated February 1st, 2011, Procurement Division Director Dorothy Donnelly outlines violations by Zimmer and her allies in awarding lucrative Professional Services Contracts for Labor Counsel, Auditor, Risk Manager and Planner. This letter indicates the state has been investigating Zimmer’s contracting practices for the past year.

Zimmer calls her actions “Fair and Open Process”, State disagrees

Zimmer and her hand-picked Business Administrator Arch Liston claim they use a “Fair and Open Process” to select all contractors who will be paid over $17,500, which is the state threshold. Those contractors actually received contracts up to and beyond $100,000 in value. When the State Comptroller looked into their claims they found something quite
different, and cited five criteria of the “Fair and Open Process” law that Zimmer violated before awarding several big-dollar contracts. The violations are outlined in detail in the letter.

State: Zimmer’s process “lacked accountability and transparency”

Zimmer and Liston have known the state was looking into their Public Contracting actions, but have said nothing to the City Council charged with acting on their contract recommendations. From August of 2009 to January of 2011 (17 months) Zimmer had full control over contracts through her allies in the old majority on the City Council. These public contracts routinely sailed through on her say-so until last week.

A subcommittee of the City Council reviewed a proposal for the 2011 City Auditor contract, and decided to go with the low bidder that would save the city about $20,000. Zimmer overruled the decision, and directed the City Attorney to draft a resolution awarding the contract to a higher bidder. The new council majority protested, and the contract was rejected. Today the new council majority appears vindicated, since the state is now calling Zimmer’s bidding procedures into serious question.

State forces Zimmer to clean up her act or face penalties

The State Comptroller is requiring the Zimmer Administration to prepare an Action Plan to address multiple egregious deficiencies in the City’s vendor procurement process ranging from conflicts screening, employee training, to vendor selection (pay-to-play). All existing City vendor contracts are called into question by Zimmer’s violations.

Her decision to hide the state investigation while launching multiple “Ethics Reform” intitaives against the Council and City Employees is seen as yet another example of how Zimmer will use her bully pulpit to attack others as a diversionary tactic for the press and public. Had a city employee leaked the Comptroller Letter to the press under Zimmer, Liston and Melli’s draconian new information control rules they could face dismissal, loss of their pension and medical benefits.

Hiding public information and state investigations from the taxpayers that could embarrass Zimmer is the primary reason why Liston and Melli are putting the rules into effect. The State Comptroller’s letter outlining Zimmer’s violations is Exhibit A in the case why they should not be allowed to do it.

Click Here to read the February 1st Directive from State Comptroller to City of Hoboken that Dawn Zimmer, Arch Liston and Juan Melli don’t want you to see.

Leave a Reply

18 Comments on "State: Zimmer violates Public Contracting Law"


Member
animal_lover
4 years 6 months ago

I understand Zimmer is writing a book – any ideas of the title?

Member
4th Ward Guardian
4 years 6 months ago

Well, well, well, what do we have here? The state sniffing around Zimmer’s contracts. What a surprise! How is it a best practice for the city to hire the partner on a law firm to oversee $200,000 in hourly billing for the same law firm? That was all Zimmer. No amount of Melli spin is gonna get around that.

No suprise how Zimmer’s people are trying to place blame on Tripodi, but no answers on why Zimmer and Cunningham pushed so hard for the high bidder on the Auditor contract that the state says wasn’t awarded in a Fair and Open process. So much for transparancy.

Member
BarefootBull
4 years 6 months ago

Talk about public contracts, what about Jersey Professional Management- who’s running the building department, Tom Shannon or Al Arezzo? Or are they both up there in the throne room sipping hot toddies with the Queen on taxpayers time and money?

Member
Kaiser Sosay
4 years 6 months ago

wasnt Mr England ridiculed and asked to step down from being the bussiness administrator a few yrs back for not being honest with the dealings under his supervision????…..Liston,at least hes consistent.add another municipality that he has cost in fees,fines or lawsuits

Member
Night Watchman
4 years 6 months ago

Gazzo, wrong again. Zimmer took an oath as Mayor on July 31, 2009. Dawn also stayed on as Council President (dual office holding) through November 2009. You can look for yourself right here: http://hoboken411.com/archives/23950

As interim Mayor she oversaw contracts and appointed her political allies to boards and then voted on those very same contracts and appointments as President of the City Council. That was not “reform”.

This is classic Zimmer/Melli spin blaming Tripodi. Zimmer is the Mayor. The responsibility for this is with the Mayor and nobody else. Just another example of her incompetence and this time it is the State that is investigating.

Member
gazzosdriver
4 years 6 months ago

Thanks. Noted. How many contracts are under investigation? How many were awarded between January 1, 2008 and July 31, 2009? How many were awarded between August 1, 2009 to present day? [quote comment=”203600″]Gazzo, wrong again. Zimmer took an oath as Mayor on July 31, 2009. Dawn also stayed on as Council President (dual office holding) through November 2009. You can look for yourself right here: As interim Mayor she oversaw contracts and appointed her political allies to boards and then voted on those very same contracts and appointments as President of the City Council. That was not “reform”.This is classic Zimmer/Melli spin blaming Tripodi. Zimmer is the Mayor. The responsibility for this is with the Mayor and nobody else. Just another example of her incompetence and this time it is the State that is investigating.[/quote]

Member
gazzosdriver
4 years 6 months ago

I may not be wrong. But correct me on these dates or any of the following facts. I am Dawn supporter but want to make sure I understand this issue.

Dawn took the office of mayor on July 31, 2009. The state fiscal monitor was appointed in October 2009. She was in place until May 2010.

The letter from the state reads that they are inquiring about contracts awarded during 2008 and 2009. Dawn was only in control for two (maybe three) months during that time period. I am not certain what power the mayor had during that period. Can anyone provide color on whether the mayor was able to award contracts or was that responsibility of the state fiscal monitor?
[quote comment=”203606″]Thanks. Noted. How many contracts are under investigation? How many were awarded between January 1, 2008 and July 31, 2009? How many were awarded between August 1, 2009 to present day? [/quote]

Member
HoneyDew
4 years 6 months ago

Here’s my question about dual job holding. If she was only the acting mayor because she was the council president, if she had quit the council, wouldn’t the new council president have also replaced her as mayor? I don’t understand how she could resign from the council if that was the only thing allowing her to be acting mayor?

I also know that the acting CEO at my company had no teeth. So I will give her a pass until she was elected in November. But I really don’t know what mayor’s do, so maybe I’m not making a fair comparison.[quote comment=”203600″]Gazzo, wrong again. Zimmer took an oath as Mayor on July 31, 2009. Dawn also stayed on as Council President (dual office holding) through November 2009. You can look for yourself right here: As interim Mayor she oversaw contracts and appointed her political allies to boards and then voted on those very same contracts and appointments as President of the City Council. That was not “reform”.This is classic Zimmer/Melli spin blaming Tripodi. Zimmer is the Mayor. The responsibility for this is with the Mayor and nobody else. Just another example of her incompetence and this time it is the State that is investigating.[/quote]

Member
4th Ward Guardian
4 years 6 months ago

@HoneyDew, Zimmer had all the power as acting Mayor as Cammarano had as Mayor. She hired and dismissed directors and ran the city from August until November the same way she did after she got a 40% minority to elect her. She was paid the full $120,000 a year as the Acting Mayor.

The law says in the event the elected Mayor resigns/steps down the Council President assumes the position immediately. The City Council can elect any eligible city resident to be Interim Mayor until the election. Zimmer’s allies controlled the council, so they chose to have their cake and eat it, too by keeping her in both jobs. If they had elected her Interim Mayor she would have had to give up her council seat, but would have remained Mayor. They used a loophole to keep her in both spots.

An acting CEO doesn’t have the sweeping legal power invested in them by NJ law that the acting Mayor does. There’s no comparison.[quote comment=”203601″]Here’s my question about dual job holding. If she was only the acting mayor because she was the council president, if she had quit the council, wouldn’t the new council president have also replaced her as mayor? I don’t understand how she could resign from the council if that was the only thing allowing her to be acting mayor?I also know that the acting CEO at my company had no teeth. So I will give her a pass until she was elected in November. But I really don’t know what mayor’s do, so maybe I’m not making a fair comparison.

[/quote]