Is Pay-To-Play Ordinance 2395 A Paper Tiger?

Is Pay-To-Play Ordinance 2395 A Paper Tiger?thumbnail
By
Published: July 18, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EDT

The failed ordinance which was to replace Ordinance 2395 has brought up a situation that might have the borough’s auditor in violation of the pay-to-play law passed in 2014.

Councilman Mohamed ‘Gino’ Elmarassy . . . has refused to name that friend and has not explained that attorney’s purpose for writing a local bill on political contributions to local candidates.”

By way of background, Ordinance 2464 was introduced by Fourth Ward Councilman Mohamed ‘Gino’ Elmarassy at the June 2nd Mayor & Council meeting this year. According to the councilman the ordinance was drafted by an attorney friend of his but, to date, he has refused to name that friend and has not explained that attorney’s purpose for writing a local bill on political contributions to local candidates. After some debate among the governing body, the councilman’s ordinance failed to be introduced by a 4-2 vote with only councilmen Elmarassy and Second Ward Councilman Joseph Petrosky voting in favor introduce it. The failed introduction of an ordinance, which is rare, prevented it from even being considered to be adopted through a second reading.

The new law would have removed a restriction set by Ordinance 2395 that prohibits any individual or business from providing professional services to the municipality if they donate more than $200 in political contributions to any candidate or member of the governing body.

Documents provided by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC) show that Samuel Klein & Company donated over the $200 contribution limit – once to Councilman Michael Yakubov for his mayoral campaign in 2014 and once to the Roselle Park Democratic Committee (RPDC) in 2015.

Both times, they were awarded an over $60,000 contract as the borough’s auditor during the reorganization meetings in January of 2015 and 2016.

In October of 2014, election reports filed by “Friends Of Michael Yakubov” show that a total of $600 was donated by eight (8) employees from Samuel Klein. Even though each individual contributed less than the $200 threshold, the committee – as well as the state – designated it as one (1) contribution of $600.

Download File (PDF)

The following year, the RPDC filed that it received $350 from the Samuel Klein & Company. It is listed as a single contribution in the committee’s contribution report.

Download File (PDF)

any service provider who knowingly fails to reveal a contribution . . . shall be disqualified from eligibility for future Borough of Roselle Park contracts for a period of four (4) calendar years”

In Ordinance 2395, the penalty under Subsection 2-4.4(b) states, in part, that any service provider who knowingly fails to reveal a contribution made in violation of this section . . . shall be disqualified from eligibility for future Borough of Roselle Park contracts for a period of four (4) calendar years from the date of the violation. The previous subsection, 2-4.3(a) states that the borough shall receive a sworn statement from the professional service provider that the bidder has not made a contribution in excess of $200.

The key word is ‘knowingly’ because even though the ordinance has been in existence since 2014, there appears to be no evidence that any service provider was notified that any such contribution statement was required of them. Usually, a Request For Proposal (RFP) would have information on what is required of a bidder, including the aforementioned statement.

Several calls and messages left for various relevant personnel at Samuel Klein & Company were not returned.

Since the ordinance has not been applied by the municipality, there are those who will state that it should be repealed. The danger in that is that ordinances such as the one offered by Councilman Elmarassy will invite political contributions that will not be known to the public from those wishing to provide a service to the municipality. Especially with an RFP, where it is not mandated that the municipality go with the lowest bidder, such non-transparent contributions might call into question the appointments made by any given governing body or elected official.

To repeal Ordinance 2395 without adequately addressing pay-to-play or, worse yet, replace it with an ordinance similar to 2464 would benefit benefit politicians, political parties, professional vendors who contribute to politicians, but not the residents of Roselle Park.

A copy of Ordinance 2395 is available below for review:

Download File (PDF)