Ms. Bandrowski really ought to spend some time learning the ropes before allowing herself to be used as the party spokeperson on matters she is still not experienced in. Her piece reeks of fear. They made a big mistake and rather than acknowledge and correct it, they try to minimize it, rationalize it, and explain it away. Ideally, the best course of action is for our Township Attorney to weigh in and provide his expert legal advice on municipal law but unfortunately, the party decided to appoint someone who has no Township Attorney experience which is why I suspect Ms. Bandrowski has made this "civics lessson" public. Despite my effort to explain not only their legal or procedural violations, they chose to improperly steamroll the appointments of several politically-connected professionals.
Ms. Bandrowski misled the public and distorted the truth on January 1st and she does so again with this opinion piece. Let's go over the facts:
She claims that I voted against the resolutions because no one had seen the contracts nor was there a COAF to cover the costs. The part about the contracts is true - the entire Democratic contingent on the Township Committee voted to approve several contracts worth over a quarter million dollars without having read the contracts. The part about the COAF is not corrrect and the record will prove it. What I said at the meeting was the resolutions themselves did not contain the requisite language concerning those Certificates as required by law NOT that the Certificates were not available. Mayor David Amlen, as the Chairman of the body, is repsonsible for the Agenda of a meeting. After I received my copy of the Agenda, I noticed there were no Certificates of Available Funding as required by law so I asked the Clerk and Chief Financial Officer to provide them. The CFO provided them about an hour before the meeting which I acknowledged. It seems that Ms. Bandrowski, her party colleagues and the Township Attorney would benefit from becoming familiar with Local Budget Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:4-1), the Local Authorities Fiscal Control Act (N.J.S.A. 40A:5A-1) and N.J.A.C. 5:30-5.
Here's what the law says, "No resolution authorizing the entering into of any contract pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq. or any other law for the expenditure of public funds to a vendor shall be enacted unless it shall recite that such a certificate showing availability of funds has been provided. The resolution shall specify the exact line item appropriation(s) or ordinance which shall be charged." None of the resolutions they voted on met those legal requirements as I stated at the meeting. Additionally, the COAF does not satisfy the legal requirements (available for examination) Until the adoption of the budget later in the year, Springfield operates on a temporary budget. That was the second resolution that was adopted at the Organizational Meeting. The law says, "When a local unit is operating under a temporary budget, as provided for in N.J.S.A. 40A:4-19, it may enter into a contract for a period extending beyond the time period funded in the temporary budget, subject to the following: 1. The full cost of the contract for that fiscal year shall be certified against the temporary budget, which must contain sufficient appropriations therefor; or 2. If the full cost of that year is not charged against the temporary budget, at leastthe prorated amount reflecting all liability to be incurred during the temporary budget period must be charged and certified, and the contract must contain a clause making its continuation past such date subject to the appropriation of sufficient funds. Immediately after the final budget adoption, a certificate of available funds shall be prepared for the remaining balance and filed with theoriginal ordinance or resolution." So, since we operate under a temporary budget, the COAF does neither.
Finally, Ms. Bandrowski mischaracterized the actual wording of the resolutions. For example, Resolution 2013-19 (available for examination), says, "Award of a Professional Services Contract for Special Counsel for Tax Appeals to Robert Renaud, Esq., of the firm of Palumbo & Renaud." and resolves, "This contract is awarded without competitive bidding as a “Professional Service” under the Local Contract Law..." The language makes it very clear that a contract that already exists is being awarded. Her distinction that the resolution "clearly states its purpose is to authorize the drawing up of a contract" is laughable. Nowhere does it say a contract will be drawn up but if that is the case, I look forward to seeing it before Mr. Amlen signs it. And her explanation that, "first the professional must be approved by the Committee, then the resolution publicly authorizing the drawing of a contract must be passed, then the contract can be drawn up confirming the details" demonstrates a lack of understanding of Local Public Contracts Law. This is absolutely not how things were done last year. If the actual final draft of the contract was not available in time for voting, then a draft outlining the terms of the agreement was available as was the case with the contract between the Township and Jeffrey Lehrer last year. Mr. Amlen's attempt to pass the responsibility of reviewing contracts before voting on to our Administrator and CFO might have worked but both admitted they had not received a copy of the contract to review it. Why have a Township Committee and why does the law specifically require the governing body to approve contracts if everything is left up to the Administrator and CFO? It is a matter of accountability and oversight. The law clearly states, "Every governing body and chief executive officer shall take reasonable steps as necessary so that all officials and employees responsible for the administration of public contracts are aware of and are able to comply with the requirements of the law and these rules." Ms. Bandrowski fails to see that hiring professionals to do work for the township without first having safeguards in place to protect the township is putting the cart before the horse and she and her political colleagues have no problem rubber stamping some of the most critical contracts of the year. She speaks with authority about how things were done in previous years but she only started showing up to meetings when she became a candidate for office. In my two years as Mayor, I never put my signature on a contract without first reviewing it and as a Committeeman, I will not vote for anything without first reviewing it despite Ms. Bandrowski's attempts to belittle my efforts to do my job responsibly. If the other Committeemen in previous years, Mr. Amlen included, voted without doing their due diligence and requesting to review documentation, they have no one to blame but themselves.
I tried to offer this explanation to Mr. Amlen at the meeting but he was not interested. I hope now that I have shed some light on the law for Ms. Bandrowski and the Township Attorney, things will be done properly. Ms. Bandrowski should know that this is not a game and I certainly don't take pleasure in trying to highlight their numerous mistakes for political points. Mistakes are made every year and previous years under many Mayors were not flawless, however, we tried to correct them. I would love nothing more than to see them succeed and lead the Township to prosperity. I do not enjoy seeing them fail time and time again because that means our town is not getting any better. I had hoped their speeches were sincere about putting aside partisan politics and working for the best interest of Springfield or even improving communication. They may have brushed aside my explanation at the Organization meeting, but I still would have been happy to work with Ms. Bandrowski to correct the problem if she reached out to me instead of trying to play politics as usual with a childish op-ed piece that lacks any legal merit. Ms. Bandrowski, feel free to e-mail me or call me anytime!