TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner (D – Mercer, Hunterdon) that would permanently disqualify public contractors from future bidding opportunities if they have been convicted of fraudulent activity involving any previously awarded public contract cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee today.
“Taxpayers have the right to know that their dollars are not going towards those who have already defrauded the residents of New Jersey,” said Turner. “There is a level of trust involved in government service and once that trust has been broken, it should not be reinstated by some arbitrary whim. If public employees cannot work for government when they betray the public trust, the same rule should apply to private contractors.”
The legislation (S-2167) comes on the heels of the sentencing of two South Jersey contractors who pleaded guilty to making false representations in order to win a government contract. In addition to being sentenced to three years probation for bid rigging and inflating school contracts, the contractors are also disqualified from public contracts for five years and must pay a $25,000 penalty.
According to the state Attorney General, Martin Starr and Stephen Gallagher, both of Cliffwood Beach, were involved with a bid-rigging scheme that allowed them to be awarded public contracts based on fraudulent and fictitious quotes. Earlier this year, Kenneth Disko, of Mountainside, was sentenced to three years in state prison for his role in orchestrating the bid-rigging scheme and receiving kickbacks in exchange for recommending approval of the contracts.
“We need to send a clear message that government is serious about not doing business with felons. Five years’ disqualification is not enough for violating the public trust; these contractors are not welcome business partners now, in five years, or anytime in the future. Therefore, we should take measures to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse by dishonest individuals and businesses that provide contracted services to New Jersey’s government entities,” said Turner. “These contractors should receive more than just a slap on the wrist for violating the public trust. Their fraudulent activities provided them with personal gains at the expense of overburdened taxpayers. We need to keep these contractors’ hands out of the public coffers and protect taxpayer dollars by eliminating any future financial risk to taxpayers.”
The bill now heads to the Senate floor.