Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pay-to-Play Reform Ordinances Pass

Three of four fair play ordinances passed unanimously Monday, but Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' ploy to have one tabled was called "ridiculous" by two council members.

As explained by Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson, the mayor wanted not only vendors to be limited to $300 political contributions when doing business with the city, she wanted to limit private political contributions to the same amount.

Council President Annie McWilliams urged the council not to table the ordinance "for anything as ridiculous as this."

"I'm offended that this was even suggested," McWilliams said.

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams concurred, saying, "It's kind of ridiculous to bring it up."

Councilman Cory Storch said he was willing to hear what the mayor had to say, but not to table the ordinance, which was up for second reading and final passage at Monday's special meeting. But Councilwoman Bridget Rivers asked, "Has the mayor had the opportunity to sit down with the author of these ordinances?"

Storch said he was the sponsor, but the Citizens Campaign was the author.

Rivers pressed again to know whether the mayor had the opportunity to discuss the ordinance. Storch said the mayor was present at discussions, but Rivers persisted, asking twice again whether the mayor had input and whether Storch met with the mayor.

"These discusssions take place in a public forum. According t the Sunshine Law, we we are supposed to put our cards on the table at a public meeting," Storch said, but Rivers once more asked, "Was the mayor given an opportunity to weigh in on these ordinances?"

Williamson said he didn't know, but recalled making a comment that it was important for the mayor to have input.

Noting the ordinances passed on first reading on Nov. 1, Rivers said, "There have been several cabinet meetings since. Is this the first time for the mayor to weigh in?"

"My understanding is at the meeting two weeks ago, just four people met. The mayor did ask questions. I'm not in favor of tabling at this late hour," Williams said.

During the subsequent roll call votes, the first ordinance, on awarding professional services by competitive negotiation, passed unanimously. The second one, which the mayor wanted to table for further consideration, first brought questions from resident Alan Goldstein, who wanted the Plainfield Municipal Utilities to have the same constraints. Referring to terms of the city's interlocal service agreement with the PMUA, Goldstein said, "If PMUA screws up, the city is on the hook."

Goldstein said the pay-to-play ordinance should include "all agencies where you appoint commissioners" and called the PMUA "a hotbed of pay-to-play abuse."

But Williamson said the PMUA is an autonomous authority.

Another resident implored the council "not to pollute the good work" of the pay-to-play legislation and not to table it.

Williams asked Williamson whether there was anything to preclude the PMUA from adopting its own pay-to-play rules and Williamson said there was not.

At the roll call vote, Councilwoman Vera Greaves began commenting, but when told she could only vote at that point, Greaves voted "no."

Councilman William Reid, taking part by telephone from home, voted "yes." Rivers voted "no" and Storch, Councilman Adrian Mapp, Williams and McWilliams voted "yes." The ordinance, MC 2011-11, thus passed, 5-2.

The other two ordinances, one requiring zoning board applicants to disclose political contributions and one requiring a bidding process for insurance, passed unanimously.

The mayor has 10 days in which she can veto any or all of the ordinances. The council could overturn any veto with five votes.

The full text of each ordinance is available from the City Clerk's office.



  1. It's a shame that Sharon is still being shady and more interested in her vested interests instead of those of the citizens of this City. She is too much the typical crooked New Jersey politician.

  2. Bernice,

    I am sure that Dan Williamson will school the mayor on the unconstitutionality of her desire to limit private political contributions. It would violate the First Amendment--I am surprised that such a suggestion even came before us. There are bans in place on certain people (like registered lobbyists) giving money to candidates, and there are already limits on what private individuals can give--$300 is not that limit.


  3. Maybe Rebecca should be the one to go back to school. There already is a limitation on private political contributions. It is $2,200. The Mayor simply wants to move the limitation from $2,200 to $300 to limit the wealthy from overpowering the 99%. Why is the Council opposed to that?

  4. With all due respect to Anonymous at 8;07 pm, I was speaking about the constitutionality of such a ban. It is unconstitutional and would never hold up in a court. That is my point.