AshBritt: The Story That Keeps on Giving
February 19, 2013Uncategorized
As a Blue Jersey diary documented, prior to Sandy AshBritt had left a wide trail of lawsuits against it, municipalities cancelling its contracts, charges of over-pricing, insufficient local hiring, criticism from congressmen, and evidence of substantial political contributions.
“I want everyone to have confidence that [Sandy] funds are being spent wisely… I want accountability, .. money not wasted, … transparency. – Governor Christie February 11
October 29 Sandy strikes NJ causing widespread damage.
By October 31 Governor Christie has hired AshBritt by piggy-backing on an existing Connecticut contract, soliciting no other bids, and providing AshBritt the exclusive right to remove debris without municipalities having to use any further bidding process.
Days afterward AshBritt contributed $50,000 to the Republican Governors’ Association (RGA), of which Christie was Vice President.
Earlier this month Christie said he took advice from Haley Barbour before deciding to hire AshBritt. Barbour was head of the RGA in 2009 and his lobbying company, BGR Group, is listed in public records as a lobbyist for AshBritt.
In early November Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty hires AshBritt saying, “They are the contractor chosen by the state of New Jersey… I am following Gov. Christie’s lead on this.”
Other municipalities which decided to forego AshBritt and hire local contractors saved money and increased local employment.
William Merkler, president of Down to Earth Landscaping of Jackson, said AshBritt squeezed him out. “I would’ve bid and so would have others,” Merkler told the Belmar borough council, “And the taxpayers would have gotten a better price.”
In Wall and Point Pleasant Borough officials there scrambled together their own plans and got the debris removal work done at just a fraction of what others paid AshBritt.
Among consultants hired by AshBritt was Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore.
As of February 10, Ocean County has paid out more than $12 million to AshBritt, records show.
Other consultants include Maggie Moran, a former top aide to Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. Moran’s husband is the mayor of Belmar. Others recruited include NJ lobbyist Kris Kolluri (associated with Haley Barbour) and former Assembly Republican director Jon Bombardieri.
AshBritt also hired Edison-based Conti Construction, which Maggie Moran works for, to vet potential subcontractors.
As separate firms are required to independently monitor debris removal, the State hired Arcadis to provide the service in parts of NJ although that firm had been hired by AshBritt to help track tons of debris collected after a 2010 Haiti earthquake.
As of early February only about 57 percent of the money paid out so far to AshBritt has gone to NJ subcontractors.
Also as of early February, forty-three municipalities hired AshBritt through the emergency contract.
In spite of controversy surrounding AshBritt, it just received one of three new State contracts to clean waterways of storm debris, with its responsibility being in southern New Jersey.
In early February it became apparent that AshBritt had hired Princeton Public Affairs Group to perform damage control to disgruntled Democratic lawmakers who were threatening to investigate AshBritt’s no-bid contract with the state.
The Assembly Budget Committee on Thursday introduced a bill with wide-ranging powers, including subpoenas for documents and testimony, to investigate the Christie administration’s handling of AshBritt.
AshBritt, as mentioned above, has used the BG&R Group as a lobbyist, and as far back as 2005 it paid BG&R $100,000.
On February 28 the head of BG&R will hold a fundraiser for Governor Christie’s gubernatorial campaign.