Council abandons ‘Pay to Play' law

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    WEST MILFORD-The ordinance introduced in West Milford to bring an end to ethics violations and to restore public confidence in government was nixed last week. Council President Bill Gervens introduced a motion to table the ordinance, effectively killing the bill, at the July 6 council meeting. The move was met with the approval of Gervens' Republican colleagues on the council. The two Democratic members of the council rejected the move but were defeated 4 to 2. "Pay to Play" ordinances, as they are commonly known, have become the prime method used to try to prevent corruption in government. New Jersey Acting Governor Richard Codey signed into law a statewide "Pay to Play" bill on March 22. The law is designed to prohibit campaign contributions by business entities that hold or seek to hold state contracts in certain circumstances. At that signing New Jersey Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, one of the bill's sponsors, described it as being "The legislature's intent to crack down on campaign contribution abuses by constructing a firewall between political fund raising and government decision making." Gervens cited the state ordinance as the reason he wanted to drop the West Milford version. He said "The state put through a "Pay to Play" ordinance and it has been checked and is still not clear to a lot of people. If their ordinance is not clear, then in my mind we shouldn't do it." Gervens also believes the township could face legal action over it. "I do not want to act or pass an ordinance that will cause lawsuits," he said. In a recent interview published in The West Milford Messenger, Township Attorney Fred Semrau spoke of the ordinance in glowing terms and said it had placed West Milford "on the cutting edge of municipal government." Semrau was not present at the meeting and was unavailable for comment before The Messenger went to print. Democratic Councilman Bob Nolan said, "I can promise you that if Andrew Gargano and Paul Marino are elected we will pass the ‘Pay to Play' ordinance." Nolan also voiced very different reasons as to why the ordinance was removed. "It was more important for the Republican council members to table the resolution so that they could award ‘Pay to Play' legal contracts to Arthur Timins." Timins, an attorney based in Roseland, is a former treasurer of the West Milford Republican Club and is contracted by the township to carry out part of its legal procedures. Gervens however refuted the allegation, saying, "My decision did not have anything to do with Arthur Timins. I have no agenda, I vote my conscience."