Politically connected firms got their piece of the county professional services pie in an annual pre-Christmas awarding of contracts by the Hudson County Freeholder Board on Dec. 20.
Although freeholders acknowledged some reduction in some of the contracts, many of the legal contracts went to some of the firms with a reputation for being connected to prominent Hudson County political figures.
Chasan, Leyner and Lamparello received a contract for legal services with an emphasis on construction law and representation for the county in appellate proceedings, bail forfeiture matters, and employee relationships. The contract is for $225,000 for 2013.
Scarinci & Hollenbeck received a contract for $300,000 for dealing with labor and employee issues for the county.
McManimon, Scotland & Baumann received a contract that would increase their earnings from $40,000 in 2012 to $65,000 in 2013, for coverage of two complicated legal cases. A second contract for $30,000 would provide legal representation in finance and contract matters involving local law and building law.
LeClair Ryan received a contract from Hudson County for $125,000 to investigate allegations of sexual and workplace harassment, hostile work environments, and discrimination cases brought against the county or its employees.
Jardim, Meisner & Susser received a contract for $30,000 to provide outside counsel for construction law and contracting related to construction projects.
County Administrator Abe Antun said that in some cases, contracts were subdivided from last year with portions given to other vendors for a reduction in total costs.
The figures in the contracts have upper caps, and are not actually given to these firms until they bill that amount. Antun said many of these contracts were reduced from last year because the firms did not bill the full amount and thus the estimated work for 2013 was based on the lower figures of what was actually billed.
Audit raises concerns about record keeping
Meanwhile, the freeholders reviewed questions raised in the 2011 fiscal audit that showed problems in some accounting areas.
County Finance Director Cheryl Fuller said auditors called for six corrective actions dealing with prompt reporting of federal and state grant funding, record-keeping in the welfare department, and incomplete reports in some areas as well as reporting of anticipated revenues as cash receipts.
The county apparently lacks an inventory of assets prior to 2006, and is in the process of doing an inventory of what it owns.
“In light of what happened in Sandy Hook School, we should be more proactive as far as our mental health services.” – Bill O’Dea
For the second meeting in a row, Freeholder Bill O’Dea raised questions about representation on various county boards, saying that there is a lack of ethnic and geographical diversity on some boards.
This came as a result of request by mayors in North Hudson for more presentation on the County Planning Board, which resulted in the county replacing a representative from Jersey City with one from North Bergen.
O’Dea said a longtime member of the board had been removed without significant notice and said this person represented the west side of Jersey City, which is impacted by a number of projects such as recycle transfer stations.
Antun said County Executive Tom DeGise had promised to give a seat to North Bergen at the first available opportunity and since the Jersey City seat’s term had expired, the seat was awarded to North Bergen.
But O’Dea noted that while Jersey City had significant representation on the Board of Freeholders, other boards such as those governing the Schools of Technology did not fully represent the racial and ethnic makeup of the county.
Hudson Regional Health looks for an increase in funding
Faced with a request for a 100 percent increase in costs to procure the services of Hudson Regional Health Commission, the freeholder board will examine the cost options of creating its own board of health. Currently, Hudson and Essex are the only two counties in the state that do not have their own board of health.
“A 100 percent increase is insane,” O’Dea said.
In light of the shooting at a school in Connecticut that resulted in the death of 20 first graders and six teachers, O’Dea said the county needs to bolster its mental health efforts and said the county should reexamine some of its inpatient and outpatient programs, and look at the components of each and who is being served.
“In light of what happened in Sandy Hook School, we should be more proactive as far as our mental health services are concerned,” O’Dea said.