The Ashbritt Reaction: The Christie Administration’s Defense Of Ashbritt Fails To Answer Key Questions

At a news conference at the Statehouse, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, denounced Governor Christie

‘Explanations are needed to help ensure the most effective and efficient use of storm recovery aid,’ says Weinberg

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg on Wednesday challenged the Christie Administration’s defense of a contract with AshBritt to perform storm-recovery work in New Jersey with the following statement and questions:

“The belated claim by the Christie Administration that their deal with AshBritt to perform emergency recovery work after Hurricane Sandy isn’t really a no-bid contract when it clearly wasn’t bid in New Jersey is hardly the straightforward explanation from a governor who claims to be a straight talker. Further, the administration’s defensive reaction to questions about the selection process and ultimate cost of AshBritt’s work that has been characterized as far more expensive than others only fuels the growing concerns about an arrangement that may profit AshBritt at the state’s expense.

“In order to help ensure that the urgently-needed aid is used effectively and efficiently to help the victims of Sandy the Governor’s Office should answer the following key questions.”

These questions include:

• Why is it that AshBritt is apparently charging so much more for work that other contractors are doing for less?

• Why isn’t the governor challenging AshBritt for what appears to be far higher costs for work that could be performed for less?

• Why is the Christie Administration now trying to claim it didn’t award a no-bid contract to AshBritt when it is clear it wasn’t bid in New Jersey?

“Whereas, the immediate delivery of these services is necessary to reduce or eliminate health and safety hazards, or potential health and safety hazards, such that purchase of these services without public bidding is appropriate pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:34-10(b); and,” From the contract between the State of New Jersey and AshBritt, Inc., October 31, 2012 http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase/pdf/AG063-Ashbritt-Contract.pdf

• Why didn’t the Christie Administration have an emergency recovery contract in place based on our experience with Hurricane Irene?

• Why did the Christie Administration piggy back on a 2008 contract from another state, resorting to a practice discouraged by FEMA?

See story on Connecticut & AshBritt: “Connecticut cities and towns wasted at least $20 million because of state storm-cleanup contract,” http://www.raisinghale.com/2012/10/29/cities-towns-wasted-20-million-state-storm-cleanup-contract/

• What standards and criteria were used to rank the bidders for the new contract and why was AshBritt selected?

• Did the Christie Administration use FEMA-recommended criteria to rank the bidders?

“Sandy was one of the most destructive and expensive natural disasters to hit New Jersey. The recovery and rebuilding of the storm-damaged communities is an urgent priority for the victims and for the state. It is important that the work is done effectively, efficiently and with none of the funding lost to wasteful spending practices. It’s also vital that the public is confident in the process. To best help the homeowners, businesses and communities that were destroyed or damaged by the storm it is imperative that these questions are fully answered.”