Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is PMUA now subject to city's new pay-to-play ordinances?

Will the Council's new reforms automatically apply to the PMUA?

Plainfield's newly enacted package of pay-to-play reforms survived the possibility of a mayoral veto when Tuesday's deadline for mayoral action came and went at 2:30 PM with no written communication from Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

This makes Plainfield
the 91st municipality in New Jersey to adopt the model ordinances as proposed by the state's good government group Citizens Action (see their website here).

The question now is whether the new ordinances, which will become effective in December, will also cover the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA)?

Resident Alan Goldstein raised the issue during the public hearing on ordinance 2011-11, the 'pay-to-play' ordinance, at the November 14 special Council meeting (see post here), citing the PMUA as 'a hotbed of pay-to-play abuse'.

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson
responded that while the ordinances would cover the City 'and its instrumentalities', the PMUA was an independent authority governed separately by state law, suggesting it would have to take the measures up on its own. This approach was echoed by Councilors Cory Storch and Rebecca Williams who wished to urge the PMUA Commissioners to take up the good-government measures.

Goldstein, however, did his homework, and in an email circulated to all City Council members on November 19, cited the Department of Community Affairs' manual on the state's pay-to-play law as applied to localities (see here, PDF), which clearly sets out --

The following are examples of agencies and instrumentalities covered by the Law:

            • Any government entity whose board or management is appointed by a county or a municipal governing body or other official. These entities include, but are not limited to:

  • Local, county and regional authorities
  • Public libraries
  • Boards of health
  • Public assistance boards
  • Joint meetings
  • Joint insurance funds
            • Fire districts
            • County constitutional officers
            • County colleges
            • Independent boards and commissions, including but not limited to: Planning and Zoning Boards, Park Commissions, Boards of Social Services, Mosquito Control Commissions, and Workforce Investment Boards.
Of the four ordinances, 2011-10 (Competitive Negotiations for Professional Services) and 2011-11 (Pay to Play Reform) would seem to have the most immediate impact, governing the awarding of contracts and the mandatory disclosure of political contributions by firms seeking business with the PMUA. 2011-13 ('Best Price' Insurance Purchasing) may also apply, though it is less likely that 2011-12 (Developer Disclosure) is applicable.

Will the PMUA automatically have to comply with the new ordinances?

While the language of the law (NJSA 19:44, see here, PDF) is straightforward, Plainfield's special charter often complicates the relation of state law to the laws of the Sovereign State of Plainfield.

Since pay-to-play reform wasn't even a glint in the eye of the pols who drafted Plainfield's special charter (adopted in 1971), I'm tossing my hand in with the State law on this one.

So, who will be the bearer of the good news to the PMUA?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Rebecca Williams said...

I agree that the PMUA should be subject to the reform ordinances and, having read the statute in the intervening time since our first reading, it appears that the state agrees. I look forward to hearing that the PMUA is abiding by this legislation.


Anonymous said...

WOW. Fantastic!

Alan Goldstein for 3rd Ward Councilmen !

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't they want to abide by it? Oh that's right so they could continue to funnel money. The PMUA could care less about the residents of Plainfield. They are still only interested in making bucks for themselves and their cronies. Yup I said it!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me why we pay Williamson.
He had no idea that the mayor could not appoint someone to sign checks without council approval.

He had no idea that PMUA may be subject to pay to play

He had no idea what "emergency" meant when the mayor invoked that term in the WBLS issue.

What does he know? Why are we paying him? And why would anyone listen to what he says regarding law?