The Jersey City Council wanted answers about who exactly authorized payments to a law firm even after the governing body terminated that contract last spring, but those answers did not come at yesterday’s caucus meeting.
One of the resolutions on last night’s agenda included the city requesting the council to vote on an outstanding payment of approximately $20,000 to the firm Arleo & Donohue, LLC, of West Orange, for “providing professional services to the City in connection with Document Production.”
But when the time came to discuss the resolution, Business Administrator Brian Platt told the council that the city was withdrawing the measure, thereby negating the opportunity for council members to ask about the ongoing payments after the council ceased the contract.
However, that didn’t dissuade Ward E Councilman James Solomon from wanting to get to the bottom of it to find out exactly who authorized the payments after the council’s vote in March 2018.
“I was upset and I had questions, and so that remains. The city council voted the contract down on March 14 and work continued,” Solomon explained in an interview.
“Invoices submitted to the council showed that the firm was working on March 16, two days after the council’s vote. The law firm was clearly aware that the contract was voted down, but they continued to work for over two more months. My very simple question is ‘who authorized that?'”
He then explained why the council rejected a contract whose total value for last year was approximately $20,000.
“We decided to terminate the contract because the administration chose not to answer, I think, some pretty basic factual questions about what their work was. We had suggested to ask them in closed caucus in which the council discusses privileged matters privately, but they declined that offer. The council therefore voted it down because they hadn’t justified the need for us to spend taxpayer dollars.”
We followed up to ask which entity or department would likely be responsible for the decision to continue to pay Arleo & Donohue, LLC.
“The contract sits with the law department. The prior Corporation Counsel was Jeremy Farrell, it’s possible he authorized it. [But] it’s possible that someone else did. I’d like to know the answer. When I asked current corporation counsel tonight what their intention on the contract was, he said the city had no decision at this point,” stated Solomon.
He added firmly, “Frankly, if they do or do not bring it back [for discussion], either way, I’m interested in knowing who authorized work after the council voted it down.”
Corporation Counsel Peter Baker deferred comment on the situation to the mayor’s office and a city spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
Furthermore, when we asked Solomon why he thinks the city isn’t providing answers on the matter he said “they chose not to answer, I can’t put words in their mouth.”