January 05, 2008

Pay to Play - MusicFest 2007

Pay to Play, the practice of companies making monetary contributions to political parties, usually the one in power and being awarded lucrative professional contracts seemingly in return, is one of those outrageous situations that Gov. Jon Conzine promised he would tackle during his tenure.

Though legislation has been attempted on more than one occasion over the past couple of years what has resulted has been watered down and containing loopholes. Interestingly the principal players have managed to find some intriguing ways to discreetly continue to do what they always have been doing.

Reviewing the list of “sponsors”, obtained through OPRA, for the Freeholders so called free concert for county residents, MusicFest 2007 proved to be a veritable who’s who of the county’s vendor list.

Case in point:
  • In 1998 the Westfield Leader reported that the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded a $3.4 million contract to Correctional Health Services, Inc. of Verona, to provide health services to inmates at the County Jail and detainees at the county’s juvenile detention center, they would be helping the county switch from public to private management of the two facilities.
  • Citing reports of other counties utilizing CHS then County Manager Michael Lapolla predicted the savings would be at least $350,000 over the following two years. Union County has awarded contracts to CHS since that time to provide medical/health care services at the jail, detention center and also the children’s shelter, for the term of January 2004 thru December 2006 at a cost not to exceed $3.6mil for yr. 1, $3.7mil for yr. 2 and $3,968,940 for 2006.
  • According to reports filed with NJ Elec., Correctional Health Services, Inc. of Verona had awarded contributions to the Union County Democratic Committee in excess of $60,000 for the period from Sept. ’98 thru October’04.
  • Double checking the NJ Elec website showed that indeed, the last contribution to the UCDC was in October of 2004 however lo and behold Correctional Health Services pops up as a MusicFest sponsor to the tune of $5,500.
  • Coincidentially just this month the all Democratic Freeholder board authorized the County Manager to enter into a month-to-month contract with Correctional Health Services, Inc., Verona, New Jersey, to provide medical/health care services for inmates and residents of the Union County Jail and the Juvenile Detention Center for the period of January 1, 2008 through June 30, 2008 in the amount of $2,249,373.

Some other MusicFest sponsors doing business/having done business with the county include: Schoor DePalma Engineers, Pennoni Engineers, 4 Connections, Maser Engineers, Waste Management, Ricci Green Architects, Access Systems and Spruce Industries who contributed a combined $35,500 to the event thus giving the incumbents an actual stage to appear on before thousands of county residents without them having to spend a single campaign dollar.