Buono: Allegations Of Pay-To-Play And Overcharging Demand Explanation
By Mel Fabrikant Saturday, March 02, 2013, 07:16 AM EST
During the last several weeks, Governor Christie has defended his no-bid selection of AshBritt on the basis that Hurricane Sandy required him to hire a firm with extreme haste and thus he needed to forgo normal bid procedures designed to prevent corruption. In addition, he has described AshBritt’s ability to expedite reimbursements from FEMA to local governments as one of the firm’s major selling points.
Today, the Star-Ledger reported that despite being offered options at half the cost, Governor Christie chose the politically connected AshBritt to remove debris in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. On the same day, the Asbury Park Press found that FEMA is reimbursing smaller, cheaper operators at the same speed as AshBritt, discrediting Governor Christie's defense.
This new information follows continued allegations of overcharging and pay-to-play donations.
Gubernatorial candidate and State Senator Barbara Buono released the following statement:
“We now know that days after Hurricane Sandy, Governor Christie was notified of firms willing to remove debris for less than half the cost of AshBritt and the firm does not ensure that local governments receive FEMA reimbursements any faster than if they use cheaper, local contractors.
“Today’s reports invalidate the Governor’s continued defense of a no-bid selection process that resulted in a politically connected firm profiting while New Jersey’s families struggle to rebuild their lives. It is becoming more evident with every passing day that AshBritt was not selected in good faith. The continuing allegations of pay-to-play donations and the overcharging of a state in need of help demand the Governor explain the selection process to New Jerseyans before we can trust him to spend federal funding appropriately."
Below is an updated timeline of events preceding Mr. Barbour's admission of directly influencing Governor Christie's decision to select AshBritt at the request of the firm.
• Fall 2005 - Then Mississippi Governor, Haley Barbour hires AshBritt Inc. to remove debris caused by Hurricane Katrina.
• October 2012 - AshBritt Inc. calls its lobbyist, Haley Barbour, asking him to talk with Governor Christie about using the firm to clean up debris left by Hurricane Sandy.
• October 2012 - During Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie awards a no-bid contract to AshBritt Inc.
• October 2012 – At the same time, Ceres Environmental Services sends a letter to the Treasury Department offering to do the work at a fraction of the cost.
• November 2012 - Days after being awarded a state contract, AshBritt Inc. donates $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association, a group Mr. Barbour once chaired and is now dedicated to reelecting Governor Christie.
• February 2012 - Ed Rogers, a founding partner in Mr. Barbour's lobbying firm, holds a Virginia fundraiser for Governor Christie.