Democratic Legislators Set To Investigate AshBrit’s Alleged Gouging

By Art Gallagher

Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, and Senate President Steve Sweeney told The Star Ledger that they are going to investigate the lucrative no-bid state contract that AshBrit received from the Christie Administration for Superstorm Sandy clean up and the well connected lobbyists the company used to sell their premium priced services to municipal officials from Sandy ravaged communities.

“We already had questions about how Sandy relief money was being spent, and these findings raise those questions to a new level,” Prieto told The Star-Ledger. “This money is supposed to be spent properly to benefit New Jersey residents and communities devastated by Sandy, not become a feeding frenzy for lobbyists and an excuse to bypass regulations on business, the environment and pay-to-play.”

As a conservative, it warms my heart to see Democrats fighting wasteful spending. Maybe Trenton really has been turned upside down.

As a skeptic, I expect that whatever hearings the Democrats hold will be done with the intention of denting Governor Christie’s substantial Sandy related armor going into the November election.

I don’t see Christie or his administration as the bad guys in this brewing controversy. Not yet, at least, and I hope never.  The administration and Republican legislators should cooperate with the investigations.  Expose the gouging, if there was gouging.  Expose the political profiteers, if there was political profiteering.

In the days before and after the storm, Christie said that he was consulting with current and former governors from Southern and Gulf States who have previously been through devastating hurricanes.   If AshBrit came highly recommended by trusted people who have been through similar emergencies, it makes sense that the administration contracted with them.  We were in catastrophic life threatening circumstances.  There was no time to waste on red tape.   “Act first and ask forgiveness later” was the charge that Christie was giving to his troops, to municipal officials and to first responders.  Appropriately so.  If the Christie administration was duped into giving a contract to the most expensive competent operator, the job still got done.  Ask for forgiveness for spending too much to get it done.  Getting the job done was paramount.

And the lesson has apparently been learned.  Four companies were approved for contracts to handle clean up from future storms.  AshBrit was the most expensive of the four. At least they have competition going forward.

One of AshBrit’s selling points, that the administration passed on to municipalities in recommending the Florida company who, as a result of the state contract did not have to comply with certain environmental rules, was that based upon their experience in previous storms, the municipalities would get the maximum reimbursement from FEMA for the company’s work.

FEMA is expected to reimburse 75% of the clean up costs.  According The Star Ledger reports, AshBrit was charging roughly 75% (corrected) 4 times more than other contractors.  If that proves to be true, the “FEMA savings” associated with AshBrit’s experience will be non-existent.

If there are bad guys in this controversy, let is be AshBrit and especially the company’s political profiteering agents.  If current and former “public servants” like George Gilmore, Maggie Moran, Kris Kullari and Jon Bombardieri were excessively compensated for selling clean up services while countless volunteers, individuals and business, were breaking their backs, opening their homes and opening their wallets to care for neighbors who were in harms way and suffered devastating blows, let’s find that out and act accordingly.  No matter who their friends are.

If AshBrit and their agents did good work at fair prices without exploiting their special status, let’s thank them for a job well done and give them a plaque.

Either way, let’s find out.


Posted: February 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Christie Administration, Hurricane Sandy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Democratic Legislators Set To Investigate AshBrit’s Alleged Gouging”

  1. This is election year posturing said at 12:48 pm on February 4th, 2013:

    Of the worst yet most predictable kind. As in Obamaland and Chicagoland, if an opponent is doing well, just keep repeating the same words and charges enough, and whether based in truth or not, eventually people start to believe it, and by default,they make some inroads.. It’d be ok’d if these grandstanders checked existing laws and Local Finance Notices that the DCA issues periodically to assist locals in navigating compliance. On Oct.29,2012, the Gov. Declared the state of emergency, and LFN 2012-22 covers emerg. Response and funding for the recovery. Also, purchase of emergency goods and services can be made without regard to public bidding pursuant to NJSA 40A:4-46 et seq, and NJAC 5:34-6.1, app. A. There are statutory emerg. procedures already in place that are to be followed. The AshBritt contract was let in Connecticut,and our state AG approved it for use here,because of the storm. Anyone who used it was legal, in so doing,and am sure whatever they paid was to assuage their emergency,in a rapid way. It remains to be seen what FEMA will cover for any of those costs! I also know that county and State Consumer Affairs are out there investigating all price- gouging complaints. So, I say to the pols trying to make political hay out of an emergency: grow up, get informed, and run on your own merits, or stop the hysteria.

  2. Bob English said at 4:42 pm on February 4th, 2013:

    Art…good piece and all fair questions to ask. Since it was an emergency I think people would understand the “no bid” provision and maybe even paying a little bit more than the norm however emergency or no emergency being charged 75% above the going rate from competitors is not acceptable.

  3. ArtGallagher said at 5:30 pm on February 4th, 2013:

    Thanks, Bob

  4. Ok, but remember, said at 7:41 pm on February 4th, 2013:

    We are union-driven in NJ, and there are very high costs in PrevailingWages that must be paid by law and under the auspices of the Labor Dep’t., on any public work. Am all for checking things out, but remember, it was and is the local governing body’s job to authorize and spend any taxpayer money. So, hope they all can justify and document what they did hire people for, because if they did not, they can lose FEMA monies, and face problems from the A.G., as well as the Ofc. of the State Comptroller, as well as the DCA’s Local Gov’t. Services division. Plenty of accountability requirements to go around!

  5. Selective TransparencyThe Save Jersey Blog | The Save Jersey Blog said at 5:48 am on March 2nd, 2013:

    […] In case you missed it, Save Jerseyans, Trenton Democrats were about to have a kitten throughout February over the fact that New Jersey State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff has yet to testify concerning the Superstorm Sandy Ashbritt contract. […]