July 25, 2005

JCA Associates & Union County

The following is an excerpt from an article which I wrote and that appeared in the Westfield Leader/Scotch Plains Times in August of 2004. More has developed on this company and how they did business. The scope has widened and now U.S. Attorney Chris Christie is looking into just how large the "web" really is and just who is involved.

We have all heard the expression that we are judged by the company that we keep. The board of Freeholders is no exception.

At the next meeting the Democrat Freeholder Board is expected to take action on a resolution authorizing the county manager to enter into a Professional Service contract with JCA Associates, Clark. The contract is in an amount not to exceed $113,876 for Construction Services associated with a bridge replacement in Summit. Sounds innocent enough, and good news for Summit, which has been long neglected. But is it really innocent or good news?

Based in Moorestown, JCA acquired their Clark office in 1999 and contributions to the UC Dem PAC started to increase. One year ago the company’s president and two corporate execs pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent tax returns in order to conceal $84,000 in illegal campaign contributions in Gloucester County made in return for Professional Services contracts.

In a rare move the courts have recently rejected the executives’ plea bargain deal, which included a $100,000 civil penalty, the ruling exposes these executives to further criminal prosecution.

In the world of pay to play this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Professional Services are defined as those provided by attorneys, engineers and architects and the regulations in NJ appear to apply to school districts, local governments, and the Turnpike Authority, as well as state educational institutions. County governments are merely urged to exercise fiscal responsibility when awarding contracts using the non-competitive bidding process or “No Bid Contracts”.

Surely this process wasn’t intended as a “reward” system for loyal contributors. But here in Union County it certainly appears that it does as this Professional Services contract would make a total of almost half a million dollars work awarded to JCA, an excellent return on a documented investment of about $20,000 to the UC Dem Political Action Committee.

JCA is only the tip of the iceberg as far as campaign contributions and no bid contracts are concerned, but it appears that they were just getting warmed up and judging by past performance bigger numbers would have soon followed.

JCA’s current legal difficulties and admitted illegal methods of doing business sends up warning flares that should not be ignored by the voters in Union County.

Do we really want to do business with operators of this type?

What else are they up to and can we really trust the caliber of their work?

Could they be taking shortcuts, which could endanger the safety of the residents?

How are their employees treated?

Since this board of Freeholders must be well aware of this situation how can they in good conscience continue to do business with this firm?

There is another old expression that says something about birds of a feather flocking together and we ask that the voters keep this in mind when they go to the polls in November.

To see more "news" about JCA, Susan Bass-Levin, George Norcross and the rest of the gang visit www.politicsnj.com