Newark illegally spent $ 5 million to renovate the rink by skipping the bidding process, officials say



Newark broke the law by spending more than $ 5 million of its own money to renovate an ice rink without opening the project up to bidders, state officials say.

The state comptroller released a report on Wednesday saying Newark bypassed the required public tendering process and instead awarded a private $ 5.4 million contract to a group associated with the New Jersey Devils. Such a move could have led taxpayers to spend more money on the project and could also undermine public confidence in government processes, according to the report.

At stake is the Adopt-a-Park status, which allows towns and villages to contract private companies to maintain or improve public parks. The catch: The project must come at no cost to the municipality.

But the comptroller’s office says Newark funded the entire renovation of the Sharpe James and Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation and Aquatic Center, issuing $ 5,225,000 in municipal bonds in 2017 and going into debt to do so.

“Municipalities that renovate parks are required to follow an open and transparent process that invites competition to avoid favoritism and advance the economic interests of taxpayers,” Acting State Comptroller Kevin D. Walsh said in a statement. communicated. “Newark violated state law by simply selecting their preferred contractor without seeking competition through a public offering.”

Newark objected to the report’s conclusion.

“We do not agree with the findings of the monitor,” the city said in a statement. “We have relied on the advice of an outside lawyer and will continue to comply with the law. Most importantly, Newark kids can skate on a first-class rink built by the Jersey Devils.

The contract between the city and Devils Renaissance Development omitted parts of the Adopt-a-Park law that require municipalities to pay nothing for projects, officials said.

Devils Renaissance Development worked as a general contractor but did not receive money for the project, according to the report. Instead, he sent the funds he received from the city to contractors.

A spokesperson for the New Jersey Devils did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.

It’s not just the ice rink. The comptroller’s office reviewed five other park projects Newark has worked on since 2008. It found that the city had partially paid for two of them.

The city first argued that a provision in the state constitution, read in conjunction with the Adopt-a-Park Act, allows municipalities to provide “equipment, materials, supplies or services,” and this also enabled him to fund the project, according to the report. State officials disagreed with this argument.

Officials listed four recommendations the city must adhere to in contracts, and Newark has agreed to implement them, according to the report.

“There are legally authorized and transparent ways for the City of Newark to partner with businesses and nonprofits while complying with public procurement law, but that has not happened here,” he said. Walsh’s statement said.. “The public tendering process in New Jersey exists to prevent both favoritism and the appearance of favoritism when taxpayer dollars are spent.”

This story has been updated to include commentary from the City of Newark.

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Amanda Hoover can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj.


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