The City of Bayonne granted a $4,094,712.50 solid waste collection contract to a vendor the month after he donated $64,327.59 to purchase a new pickup truck for the office of emergency management, though whether or not that was rescinded is in dispute.
The Bayonne City Council unanimously approved (5-0) an add-on resolution accepting a $64,327.59 donation from Joseph Bolowski to purchase a new pickup truck for OEM at their May 12th meeting, according to a copy of the measure.
Then, last week at their June 16th session, the governing body approved the over $4 million contract for a two-and-a-half year time frame with A & L Disposal LLC, a company owned by Bolowski. The contract ends on December 31st, 2023.
The city also has the ability to extend the contract by an additional two years, which would bring the total costs for the deal up to $7,670,482.50, the resolution says.
This measure passed 4-0(1), with Council President Sharon Nadrowski, a rumored 2022 challenger to Mayor Jimmy Davis, abstaining. She told HCV this morning that she felt “uncomfortable” supporting the contract in light of Bolowski’s recent donation.
“As I stated at the meeting, the city had accepted a $64,000 plus donation in the form of a truck for the OEM director at our May meeting from the owner of A & L while we had an open bid out for garbage. I felt uncomfortable with this so I abstained.”
While such a set of circumstances would be unlikely to play out in neighboring cities like Jersey City and Hoboken that have defined pay-to-play rules, the situation appears to be permissible in Bayonne since they never put such parameters on their books – though there are regulations that apply statewide.
Bolowski, who hung up the phone when reached for comment this morning, donated $1,000 dollars to Davis’ 2022 re-election campaign twice: once on October 22nd, 2018 and again on March 12th, 2019, according to filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC).
This afternoon, Chris Patella, counsel for A & L Disposal, claimed that the donation for the OEM truck had been rescinded, as well as that his client was the lowest bidder on the garbage removal contract.
That sentiment was echoed by Law Director Jay Coffey, who issued a lengthy statement just after 3 p.m., noting that the donation had been rescinded the day after the council approved it, May 13th, and that contracts selected through a fair and open process are not subject to New Jersey pay-to-play regulations.
” … This specific (since rescinded and never effectuated) donation was made to the CITY OF BAYONNE, not a political party, candidate committee, election related committee, campaign committee, political party committee or legislative leadership committee. The State’s law makes an exception for contracts awarded pursuant to a ‘fair and open process,'” Coffey wrote.
“Insofar as the purpose of the law is to provide oversight on political contributions as they apply to contracts awarded outside the state’s Fair and Open contract award process, neither of which occurred here, I believe that this donation was rescinded out of an abundance of caution by the contractor’s attorney.”
In response, Nadrowski said that the council never received any sort of formal communication/notification of the truck donation being rescinded, pointing out that the OEM director was seen driving it as recently as Friday.
” … When the council voted [last week], to all our knowledge, we had accepted the gift of the truck and as as I know that is still the case.”
She also questioned why the council would take formal action to accept the donation but not to rescind it.
A & L Disposal received a short-term garbage collection contract at the end of last year and drew the ire of a few residents who said that trash and recycling, which was being handled by a different company, were not being picked up on schedule – if at all.
Editor’s note: This statement was updated with comments from A & L Disposal Counsel Chris Patella, Bayonne Law Director Jay Coffey, and an additional comment from Council President Sharon Nadrowski.