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Donovan vetoes second freeholder attempt at pay-to-play ordinance

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Once again, Bergen County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan today vetoed a pay-to-play ordinance adopted by the county freeholder board earlier this month that eases restraints to political parties by no-bid contractors doing business with the county.

As with the first veto, Donovan cited what she called an “ill-conceived attempt [to] weaken what has been described as one of the strongest ordinances banning pay-to-play in the State of New Jersey.”

In a letter explaining the veto, the county executive cited constitutionall concerns raised by the wording of the ordinance, which she said, “is being applied in the middle of an election cycle and, by law, should not be applied retroactively,” even though that is its obvious intent.

The freeholders initially approved an override of a previous veto from Donovan on May 15. But a failure to notify the public in advance forced them to take another vote May 22 to approve the ordinance — which ups the amount a county-hired contractor can contribute to political parties to $5,200 from $2,500. The amount that can be donated to individual candidates ($300) by contractors — such as auditors, attorneys and engineers — remains the same.

The outcome, as expected, was the same.

“[T[here should be one statewide law covering pay-to-play disclosure,” Donovan said. “I believe that such a law should be designed to limit the influence of both vendors and political leaders whose power lies in the political purse.

“We in Bergen County are all too aware of the impact of late, undisclosed money ‘wheeled’ in from all over the [s]tate, and probably [from] elsewhere, to unfairly tip the balance in an election.

“I offer to the Freeholder Board, as I have in the past, that we should join together to urge the [g]overnor and Legislature to adopt a comprehensive statewide law banning the corrupting practice of play-to-play while allowing candidates and political parties to raise the funds needed to conduct campaigns guaranteeing transparency to the public and enhancing public confidence that government-generate contracts are not a disguised mechanism of political campaign financing.”

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