Howard Birdsall Pleads Guilty To Pay To Play Crimes

Howard-BirdsallHoward Birdsall, 72 of Brielle, pleaded guilty today to corporate misconduct for his role in a criminal scheme in which more than $1 million in corporate political contributions were illegally made through employees of his now defunct engineering firm, Birdsall Services Group, in violation New Jersey’s pay-to-play law, according to an announcement by the NJ Attorney General’s Office.

Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Birdsall be sentenced to four years in state prison. He also must pay $49,808 to the state, representing forfeiture of the political contributions that he made on behalf Birdsall Services Group that were reimbursed by the firm. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22.

“As the CEO and largest shareholder of Birdsall Services Group, Howard Birdsall reaped major profits from the millions of dollars in public contracts his firm secured each year – contracts that should have been off limits based on the illegal campaign contributions made by the firm,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This plea should serve as a warning to any corporate officials who would engage in this type of criminal scheme to skirt our pay-to-play law and skew public contracting in their favor.”

“Many millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are spent on public contracts each year in New Jersey. Our citizens have a right to expect that those contracts will be awarded through a transparent process that strictly serves the public interest, not the interests of the politically connected,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll aggressively prosecute anyone who engages in criminal conduct to evade our laws in this area.”

Under the scheme, instead of Birdsall Services Group making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm made personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable. Multiple personal checks were bundled together at Birdsall Services Group and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization. The shareholders and employees were then illegally reimbursed by Birdsall Services Group, directly or indirectly, through added bonus payments, and the firm falsely omitted the illegally reimbursed contributions in documents filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and with government agencies that awarded the firm engineering services contracts. The scheme continued for more than six years and involved more than $1 million in contributions.

Birdsall was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Brookdale Community College from 1998 until April of 2011.  He resigned from the Brookdale Board in the wake of the scandal that resulted from the prosecution of former Brookdale President Peter Burnham.

Posted: February 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Birdsall Engineering, Brookdale Community College, Monmouth County News | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

7 Comments on “Howard Birdsall Pleads Guilty To Pay To Play Crimes”

  1. Steve Adams said at 11:17 pm on February 18th, 2016:

    Birdsall was a crook. That’s clear. He was chairman of Brookdale when the they named the largest building on campus as a memorial to the crooked Freeholder Harry Larrison. He was the godfather of the Freeholder Director that got public contracts from the county. Is it any wonder the Freeholders didn’t pursue any further investigation or fixing the mis named Larrison Hall on the Brookdale campus? Why don’t the current freeholders and Brookdale board fix the name of Larrison Hall? Should the county have a monument to another corrupt official? Is exposing impressionable students to a memorial to a corrupt official good public policy?

  2. Here we go again, said at 7:57 am on February 19th, 2016:

    John? Amy? Jim??.. once again, there absolutely would not be a Brookdale without Mr. Larrison. Period. As for Birdsall, they competed for a large amount of their contracts, in many entities. Both parties in several counties and many towns, took and benefitted from, their excessive-to- this-law contributions. Because of these, the company is bankrupt and gone, dozens of good people who did nothing wrong lost their jobs. When is enough, enough, in punishment? Seems like a lot of resources spent beating this very dead horse: perhaps it could be better spent on prosecuting and punishing the drug lords and pushers who are ruining and killing our kids, on a daily basis.

  3. Ira Spelvin said at 9:12 am on February 19th, 2016:

    “Pay to play'” also known as offering and paying a bribe. Clearly illegal. Apparently the other side of the equation; those who play after being paid, are not prosecuted. Why?

  4. Steve Adams said at 11:27 am on February 19th, 2016:

    In response to the anonymous comment saying there would be no Brookdale without Larrison. There is a county community college in almost every county in NJ, so that is spin.
    You characterize the Birsall bribery conspiracy as “excessive-to-this-law”. Do you have a hard time with saying “criminal bribary and conspiracy”? “excessive-to-this-law” is a funny way to avoid the truth.
    I agree that it is unfortunate that his employees had to find other jobs, but that is because Birdsall and many others broke the law and bribed public officials. That’s on Birsdall and his co-conspirators.

    As for Larrison, he was a crook, and his name has no place being on a public building. If our Freeholders and Brookdale political appointees on the Board looked at a moral compass, the right direction would be to take his name off the building. No amount of spin or actual good work is an excuse for corruption.

  5. Give it up, Steve, said at 12:37 pm on February 19th, 2016:

    since you don’t seem to know that tract of land would never have been donated to the county, had it not been for Mr. Larrison knowing the lady who owned it. Sure, eventually we’d have gotten a few city buildings on macadam, at more expense,as some other counties have, but we know Dir. Larrison emphasized education there, and with our outstanding vo tech schools -NOT the same as elsewhere.!..And, if you don’t know that “pay -to-play” laws in Jersey were passed to deflect from all the huge contributions the politicians always got, and all the outright bribery many got caught doing, then you don’t know this state, at all: it became a race for years, among governing bodies, to pass “the toughest” laws- it’s become a joke, (see the article on Mayor Doherty just easing his Belmar ordinance!) and, it is quite confusing to many vendors who want to bid for work: there is a bill pending,to make them all the same, as we write… And, everyone knows the non- competitive professional awards made in nearly every entity, every Jan.1, are based on which firms give them the most, not to mention all the dinners and perks they take!.. Must be wonderful to be so judgmental, purist,perfect, and cut-and-dried, on a very prominent, and continuing, issue and practice, in this state!.. I just don’t see how this one hyped instance stops the” business- as – usual, ” in NJ.

  6. Steve Adams said at 2:49 pm on February 19th, 2016:

    Larrison was corrupt.
    He abused his office for his own benefit and the benefit of his family and friends.
    The very building that unfortunately bears his name was constructed by those “friends and family” that unfairly benefited for decades. There is a set of plaques from those builders thanking Larrison in that very building. Larrison was the godfather of one of them.
    How many public contracts were awarded inappropriately that way in his 40 years as a freeholder?
    If the quantity of corruption matters, you and I disagree. I think any corruption is wrong.
    The amount should only affect the length of the prison term.

  7. I can said at 5:48 pm on February 19th, 2016:

    attest to nearly 30 years in our county: none. As for any other governing body or entity, no information.