Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bergen Freeholders Assemble and Plan

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bergen Freeholders Assemble and Plan

Article excerpt

It didn't take long for the Democratic Bergen County freeholders to take out their new veto-proof majority for a spin.

Just minutes after formalizing a 5-2 majority on the board at the annual reorganization meeting, newly reelected Freeholder Chairman David Ganz called for strengthening the county's pay-to-play law -- a measure that was relaxed last year.

In May, the freeholder board revised the county's pay-to-play law in a 6-1 bipartisan vote that eased restrictions on how much money professional no-bid contractors such as attorneys, auditors and engineers can contribute to county political parties. The previous law allowed vendor contributions of up to $300 per candidate or an overall limit of $2,500 per election cycle. The law now in place keeps the $300 limit for individual candidates but increases the limit on contributions to county political organizations from $2,500 to $5,200.

The ordinance passed last year after votes from Republican Freeholders John Mitchell and John Felice were secured, providing enough of a majority to withstand a veto by county Executive Kathleen Donovan, who opposed the revisions.

However, on Nov. 5, Mitchell narrowly lost his reelection bid. As a result, he was replaced on Thursday by Democrat James Tedesco III, a former Paramus mayor who campaigned on restoring much of the original ordinance adopted by a Republican-led board in December 2011.

"All of us compromised on an ordinance that was simply not strong enough," Ganz said after being reelected chairman for another year at the board's reorganization meeting on Thursday. "Many of my colleagues firmly believe we should have drawn a line in the sand."

Ganz said he'll seek to reduce the amount that no-bid contractors can contribute to county political parties from $5,200 per election to $2,000. He also vowed to toughen the law's penalties for violators.

Advocates of pay-to-play reform hailed Ganz's comments on again revising the law.

"We're ecstatic that the freeholder board is going to do what they need to do," said Chuck Powers, president of Bergen Grassroots, a citizen group that pushed for the law for several years. …

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