County violated state law

It happens that Bergen County had a similar situation and today the Star Ledger reported (or maybe mis-reported) on what the State Supreme County had to say. Excerpts follow.

Bergen County circumvented public bidding laws when it awarded an $80 million contract to renovate the county’s historic courthouse through a no-bid contract, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision, which will stop the massive project from going forward for now, could have wider implications. A similar dispute continues in Union County over claims that officials there also skirted public bidding laws in the proposed construction of a $123.8 million government complex in Elizabeth.


The legal fight began more than a year ago after Dobco filed lawsuits in both Bergen and Union counties after the firm was passed over for consideration for the lucrative deals before the contracts were awarded.

Lawyers for Dobco charged that the two counties used their respective improvement authorities to get around New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law, which requires public bidding for projects that utilize public funding.


The company claimed that Bergen and Union sought to evade that requirement by weaving “a tangled weblike transaction that involved reshuffling ownership of public land and monies.”

In both cases, a county improvement authority was used as the vehicle to redevelop the properties and the projects went through the state’s alternative Local Redevelopment and Housing Law to solicit requests for the design and construction of the projects.


Like the Appellate Division, the high court said it found no evidence that the Legislature intended to create an exception to the mandate to comply with those bidding requirements, even when a county improvement authority, as in the case of Bergen, acts as a redevelopment entity and contracts with a redeveloper.

That would presumably also impact on the Union County project, which was not referenced in the opinion.

Union’s long-planned government complex that Dobco and others claimed had similarly skirted state public bidding laws illegally was halted by a state appeals court earlier this year, which rejected arguments that any delay in that construction project would only incur more costs to taxpayers.

The three-judge panel also determined that the procurement process used by Union County violated New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law, and the next phase of the project had to be publicly bid.

The state Supreme Court has yet to agree to take up the Union County case. However, a lower court judge has scheduled hearings to determine the financial harm of halting a project that has already been approved by the county.


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