State considers a rule requiring an upper limit on contract awards

(Re-posted from NJ Open Government Notes blog.  Credit: John Paff)

 On August 1, 2014, the New Jersey Libertarian Party (NJLP) formally petitioned the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for a rule requiring municipalities and other local government units to specify an “up to” dollar amount in each resolution that awards a public contract. At its December 10, 2014 meeting, the DCA’s Local Finance Board preliminarily approved the requested rule and will consider final adoption after a 60-day public comment period.

The NJLP submitted its rulemaking petition in response to the Parsippany-Troy Hills governing body’s award of a no-bid financial consulting contract to a company that was reportedly owned by or tied to the township’s recently-resigned Chief Financial Officer.  The resolution that awarded the contract and other related paperwork said only that the amount of the contract “will exceed $17,500.”  When a local newspaper requested records showing the exact contract amount, Parsippany-Troy Hills responded that the contract “hasn’t been signed by the Administration [and that] could take up to 30 days.”

John Paff, who chairs the NJLP’s Open Government Advocacy Project and authored the petition, said that citizens have an “extraordinarily strong interest in knowing the amount of taxpayer money” spent on contracts and need “prompt and meaningful access to governmental information . . . to effectively fulfill their vital role in monitoring government and seeking redress for governmental excesses and abuses.” The Local Finance Board agreed, saying that the rule amendment will “increase transparency” and will “improve the public’s ability to monitor how tax dollars are being spent.”

The Petition, Rule Proposal and related documents are on-line here.