For years, I have been trying to get state level enforcement of a provision in the Local Public Contracts Law that requires local governments to publish in the local newspaper the dollar amounts of the profession services contracts that it awards without competitive bidding. Such notification is clearly required by state statute but many local governments simply ignore the requirement.
In early 2015, I was heartened by the Department of Community Affairs’ initial decision to adopt a rule, in response to the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s (NJLP) Petition for Rulemaking, that would enforce the dollar amount disclosure requirement. Unfortunately, the Division let the rule proposal expire. The NJLP still holds on to hope and has filed another, similar Petition for Rulemaking on March 16, 2016.
Since the available evidence suggests that there is reluctance at the state level to impose accountability requirements on local officials, I have taken to enforcing the dollar amount disclosure requirement on a town by town basis. This is, of course, highly inefficient and time consuming, but I don’t see any other option given New Jersey’s past treatment of this issue.
The first municipality in which I have attempted local enforcement is the small Borough of Peapack and Gladstone in Somerset County. The Borough wasn’t publishing the dollar amounts of its no-bid professional services contracts and wasn’t publishing the no-bid contracts it was awarding to its municipal prosecutor and public defender at all. (The Borough genuinely believed that publication of the prosecutor’s and defender’s contracts wasn’t necessary because it was part of a joint municipal court.)
I have secured from that Borough an April 29, 2016 letter in which the Borough agreed, going forward, to fully comply with the dollar amount disclosure statute. One down and probably another couple hundred to go.