Friday, July 11, 2014

Township rebuffs attempts to learn how much is being paid to former CFO's consulting company.

Update:  The Township provided a "Certificate of Available Funds" in response to the following OPRA request.  But, the Certificate did not state the amount of the contract, so the public is still in the dark about how much of its money is being spent.
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A Township CFO resigns to take a county job.  Then the Township contracts with a firm that is at least partially owned by its former CFO to provide "day-by-day financial consulting services."  Then, the Township stonewalls the media's attempt to find out how much the consulting company is going to be paid under the newly minted contract. Only in New Jersey.

Following is my OPRA request to the Township to figure out how much tax money the former CFO's consulting firm is going to receive.
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July 11, 2014

Yancy Wazirmas, Clerk
Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Clerk
1001 Parsippany Blvd.
Parsippany, NJ 07054
Via e-mail only to YWazirmas@parsippany.net

Dear Mr. Wazirmas:

Please consider this letter my request for government records pursuant to the Open Public Records Act and the common law right of access.  The request for records is at the bottom of this letter.

Background:

The July 9, 2014 Parsippany Focus article "Kovalick’s company hired to perform financial consulting services" indicates that after Township Chief Financial Officer Joseph A. Kovalick, Jr. resigned from his position, he took a job with Morris County.  Then, according to the article, the Township Council passed a resolution to award a no-bid contract to EPIC Solutions, LLC "to provide day-by-day financial consulting services as directed by the municipality’s [new] Chief Financial Officer."  The punch line is that Kovalick is "one of the principals of Epic Solutions, LLC.
 

The article goes on to relate that the Township refuses to release salient details, such as "how many hours the consultant will be working in Parsippany [or] at what rate the consultant will be paid."  According to the article, the Focus sought a copy of the contract but was told that it "hasn’t been signed by the Administration (meaning Mayor James Barberio) and given to the Clerk’s Office yet.  That could take up to 30 days."

On July 10, 2014, I requested "immediate access" to the contract and you responded today:

We are in receipt of your OPRA request for "the Professional Service Agreement with EPIC Solutions, LLC."  The document you are seeking is not in the possession of the Custodian of Records. The resolution adopted by  the Township Council at their meeting on July 8th states: "That the Township Council hereby authorizes execution by the Mayor and witness by the Township Clerk of a professional services agreement with EPIC Solutions, LLC, in a form acceptable to the Township Attorney." Until such time that the completed document is received by this office, it remains as an exemption under N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1: "Inter-agency or intra-agency advisory, consultative or deliberative material."
I think that what the Focus and its readers really want to know is the maximum "up to" amount that can be paid to Epic under the contract.  According to N.J.A.C. § 5:30-5.4(a)(1), whenever a contract is pending approval by the governing body:
The chief financial officer or certifying finance officer, as appropriate, charged with the responsibility of maintaining the financial records of the contracting unit shall certify in writing to the governing body the availability or lack thereof of adequate funds for each contract which is pending approval by the governing body. Said certification shall designate specifically the line item appropriation(s) of the official budget to which the contract will be properly charged, ensuring that the same funds shall not be certified as available for more than one pending contract. Said officer shall be solely responsible for the accuracy of the certification.
It appears, therefore, that this written encumbrance certification would disclose the maximum amount that can be disbursed under this contract.

Records Requested:

The certification of fund availability, as required by N.J.A.C. § 5:30-5.4(a)(1), related to the award of the contract to EPIC Solutions, LLC.  Please provide via e-mail.

Very truly yours,

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