Thursday, April 3, 2014

Following up on: Publishing the "amount" of no-bid government contracts

Update: June 3, 2014

At long last, the Division of Local Government Services has issued a reminder that local government units are required to publish the "amount" of no-bid contracts in the newspaper.  Below is the relevant text of the "DLGS-News Update (6-3-14)"

1. Notice of Professional Service Award Requirements

Local units are reminded that NJSA 40A:11-5 (a)(i) states that for professional service awards as an exemption in the LPCL, "The governing body shall in each instance state supporting reasons for its action in the resolution awarding each contract and shall forthwith cause to be printed once, in the official newspaper, a brief notice stating the nature, duration, service and amount of the contract, and that the resolution and contract are on file and available for public inspection in the office of the clerk of the county or municipality, or in the case of a contracting unit created by more than one county or municipality, of the counties or municipalities creating such contracting unit."  It has come to the attention of the Division that certain local units have been deficient in meeting these notice requirements.  Please ensure that any advertisements provide the nature of the contract, the duration of said contract, and a not to exceed amount which the finance officer will have certified.  Compliance with these requirements may be included on the Best Practices Checklist for 2014.  Failure to abide by the notice requirements could, depending on other Best Practices answers, result in a loss of municipal aid consistent with the best Practices Program.

Original Post:  April 3, 2014

Thomas Neff, Director
Division of Local Government Services
(via e-mail only)

RE: Publishing the "amount" of no-bid government contracts

Dear Mr. Neff:

On December 23, 2012, I wrote to you about a common, statewide problem of municipal governments failing or refusing to list the amounts of their no-bid contracts in the newspaper legal advertisements that the Local Public Contract Law requires them to publish.  My original letter, with links to the relevant exhibits, is on-line here.  In my letter, I asked the Division to "distribute a Local Finance Notice, or otherwise remind local governments of the statutory requirement to include the "amount" of each professional services contract they award within the legal notice published in the local newspaper."

Since then, I have had the following e-mail exchanges with you on this topic:
December 23, 2012: You wrote: "Thoughtful comments John. We will consider doing so in the near future. As you can probably appreciate, we are all hand on deck with Sandy financial impacts but I am forwarding to our Asst Dir for financial reg for consideration. ([Gerry Seneski], talk to me about this next week.)"

February 21, 2013: I wrote: "Just following up.  Did you and Gerry Seneski have opportunity to speak about the issue raised in my 12/23/12 e-mail?"

February 23, 2013: You wrote: "I did and will be deferring to Gerry on this. Gerry, just know that Gordon is working on a notice relating to procurement.  It may be something simple we can tack onto that notice.  Talk with Gordon or Chris about adding something simple and to the point."
Has anything been done yet?  The reason I'm asking is because I am still seeing examples of municipal governments awarding no-bid contracts to lawyers and other professionals without listing the "amount" of those contracts in the newspaper ad, as required by law.  For example, North Hanover Township in Burlington Township awarded eleven no-bid professional services contracts at the Township Committee's January 1, 2014 reorganization meeting and the newspaper's legal advertisement (on-line here) in each instance informs that the "cost" can be determined by looking at the contract itself or Resolution 2014-1.  When one goes to the Township's web site, however, neither the contract nor the resolution is on-line.  This means that interested citizens have to OPRA the contract in order to get the information that they were supposed to get simply by reading the newspaper.

The fact that this problem is still occurring despite me having written to you about it over a year ago and despite you having twice directed your staff to remedy it is, frankly, troubling.  What exactly does it take to get the Division to enforce a law that is within its purview?

Sincerely,

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Open Government Advocacy Project
Phone: 732-873-1251
E-mail: paff@pobox.com

No comments:

Post a Comment