For those who have not had a chance to read it, below is the reprinting of my editorial piece in the Voorhees Sun online edition ( I was told it was too long for the print edition so here you go!)
On Jan. 2, I participated in my second Voorhees Township Committee Reorganization meeting, or “Reorg” as it is commonly referred to in political circles, as an elected township committeeman. Every year, the Reorg meeting in Voorhees is replete with the pomp and circumstance of the swearings in of the committeemen elected that year, as well as the designations of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, or Deputy “Mayors” as the case would have it this year, by the rest of committee. Reorg also features speeches by the mayor and the other official or officials sworn in which inevitably portray an overly rosy outlook for the township in the coming year and a multitude of self-serving pats on the back for various achievements occurring in the year past.
As important as some of the above traditions are, I am not writing this article because of what happens in the first part of Reorg. It is what happens in the second part of Reorg that has prompted me to write this piece. At bottom, the residents and hardworking taxpayers of Voorhees elected me two Novembers ago not to simply be a rubberstamp for business as usual in Camden County, but to be a true check and balance to a one-sided local government and to shine a light on government activities that Voorhees residents deserve to know about. I believe I have done that and more in my first year in office, however, this second part of Reorg requires special attention.
You see, the second part of Reorg is the time of the year where Township Committee appoints all of its professionals for the year who perform necessary services for the township, all of whom are obviously paid with taxpayer dollars. Cynics would say this is also the time of the year where local politicians pay their hefty campaign contributors back with lucrative municipal contracts, and as a result, force the very residents who elected them to pay inflated prices for services that could have been secured for far less. As a steward of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars, I bring (and brought) the utmost in fairness and integrity to this process. Needless to say, I feel that committee as a whole, did not.
Case in point: 15 professional appointments were made by committee on Jan. 2. I objected on the record to five of these appointments because in each of those five instances, the professionals selected were considerably more expensive than one or all of their competitors who likewise had responded to the RFP for that position and additionally in some cases either did not present the proper qualifications or were not the best suited for the position. Those objections were as follows:
1.) Township Engineer
After several years of loyal and faithful service with an excellent track record of serving our town and knowledge of our town, committee decided to kick out our most recent township engineer in favor of a firm with markedly more expensive rates (old township engineer’s rates range from $80-$125/hour for a licensed engineer where minimum for engineer at new firm are $135/hour). And yes, if you’re wondering, the firm selected as our township engineer is a loyal campaign contributor contributing the max amount allowable under law to the Democratic candidates’ campaign this year. (See October 28, 2011 NJ ELEC 11 Day Pre Election Report).
2.) Bond Counsel
Despite the fact that the competitor responder for this position was a qualified, established, reputable law firm with rates literally thousands of dollars cheaper than those of the firm selected, committee ignored this fact and selected the more expensive firm anyway which will cost the Voorhees taxpayers demonstrably more. (Fee schedule of $4,000 plus $1 per thousand dollars of bonds issued for the firm not selected vs. $5,000 to $9,000 for $1-$999,999 dollars of bonds issued; $9,001 to $13,000 for $1,000,000 to $4,999,999 dollars of bonds issued; and $13,001 plus $1.10 per $1,000 of bonds issued over $5,000,000).
And yes, you guessed it, the firm selected as our bond counsel is a loyal contributor to the Democratic campaigns in this town year in and year out, and this past year was no different as they once again contributed heftily to the Democratic candidates’ campaign. (NJ ELEC).
Here, despite the fact that the RFP for this position specifically states and requires that the responder supply “Cost details, including the hourly rates of each of the individuals that perform services,” the firm chosen for this position (and who has been chosen year in and year out by the majority party) failed to supply this crucial detail and instead provides a vague, amorphous statement that the firm is “agreeable to accept the salary set by Township Council.”
As I argued at the Reorg meeting, this is not a proper response to the RFP because it omits the most important factor for choosing a professional, that of precise cost.
Despite the response being non-compliant, Township Committee again simply rubberstamped this appointment. That said, even if the prosecutor chosen is trying to state that he should be given the same amount set by Township Committee last year (and that he received last year), that amount was $25,864.
The competitor responder for the prosecutor position, a qualified prosecutor serving in other Camden County towns, properly included the cost details in their response stating that their firm would accept $15,000 to perform the services of Voorhees prosecutor. As such, Committee would have saved $10,864 for the Voorhees taxpayer if they had gone with this selection. They did not. And yes, you guessed right again! The prosecutor selected for yet another year for this position has been a loyal campaign contributor to the Democratic campaigns in this town year in and year out, and this past year was no different as he once again contributed heftily to the Democratic candidates’ campaign. (See 2011 NJ ELEC Report). I think we’re starting to see a pattern here folks!
4.) Engineer Consultants for the Environmental Commission
The firm chosen for this position was the most expensive firm by far out of the five qualified responses provided to the township, yet committee decided to select them anyway. This firm is also not a stranger to political contributions donating frequently to the Camden County Democratic Committe. (See NJ ELEC).
Lastly, although they were ultimately selected, several of my colleagues on committee, ostensibly on orders from their party bosses above, had initially voted to remove one of our long time loyal insurance brokers in favor of a designated party preferred broker. The broker to be kicked out was one that has been with Voorhees for years, they have been a faithful, steadfast member of our community, they are located in Voorhees, they employ six Voorhees residents and have given back to Voorhees without hesitation whenever the township has asked.
On the afternoon of Reorg, and only after I and several others raised a stink about this disgraceful intended move, did my colleagues on committee reverse their vote and decide to stick with our longtime, loyal broker.
Now, political opponents and detractors will most certainly try to deflect and claim that I have set forth the above solely for political reasons. Nothing could be further from the truth and fortunately those opponents and detractors can’t run from this truth as it is there in simple black and white.
What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong at its most elementary level. Residents from all political parties should be enraged by the above.
In this economy, or any other economy for that matter, hard-working Voorhees taxpayers should not have to pay the elevated prices of political paybacks solely to benefit politicians who care only about themselves and who are beholden to powerful machine bosses. As the sole check and balance on the Voorhees Township Committee, it is my duty to shine a light on such improprieties and I will continue to do so as long as the residents of Voorhees provide me with the honor of serving.