This post was written by Patch Field Editor Elaine Piniat. Additional writing was contributed by Brick Patch Local Editor Colleen Platt.
An in-depth look at Birdsall Service Group's alleged pay-to-play scandal examines how some of that money trickled down to area politicians — including the Monmouth County Freeholders and local mayors and committee and council members.
A Star-Ledger article published Sunday notes that Birdsall reimbursed employees with bonuses after the staffers wrote personal checks to area candidates — many of whom are serving in Monmouth County.
Records show $66,035 went to politicians in Monmouth County. Birdsall earned $4.2 million from Monmouth County for engineering work, The Star-Ledger reported.
On Oct. 23, 2008 alone, Birdsall donated $2,700 to the Election Fund of John Curley. The Star-Ledger’s records show that Birdsall made donations ranging from $60 to more than $4,000 over the course of four years to Monmouth County affiliated groups.
The engineering firm also donated to municipal political organizations, both democratic and republican, in Monmouth County. Records show donations made to Atlantic Highlands Democratic Support, Committee to Elect Jim Schatzle and Mike Fitzgerald (Republican, Colts Neck), the Eatontown Democratic Campaign, the Hazlet Republican Club, the Committee to Elect DiMaso and Hinds (Republican, Holmdel), various Board of Education candidates in Howell, the Election Fund of Adam Schneider (Democrat, Long Branch) and many more.
A graph created by The Star-Ledger, breaks down donations made throughout the county and state. On May 31, 2009, $3,000 was donated to the Committee to Elect Ryan D. Green for Manalapan Township Committee (Republican) for a wine and cheese tasting event. On March 27, 2012, $4,000 was donated to Monmouth Democracy for a cocktail reception honoring Marlboro Democratic Municipal Chairman Frank LaRocca.
The Star-Ledger reported that from 2008 to 2012, Birdsall made more than 1,000 secret contributions worth $1.05 million to candidates and political groups across the state. During that time, Birdsall earned more than $84 million in public contracts.
Birdsall gave $3,900 in corporate and individual contributions to Republicans in Holmdel in 2011, during the time a controversial sewer expansion was being debated, the Asbury Park Press found. Birdsall oversaw Holmdel’s sewer services.
Mayor Patrick Impreveduto, a Holmdel Republican whose campaign committee received $1,700 from Birdsall from 2009 to 2011, told the Asbury Park Press that the money did not impact his decision to put off voting on a redevelopment plan for the property that would have restricted expansion of sewer services.
At this time, no politician who received secret contributions from Birdsall have been accused of any crime, The Star-Ledger said. The Star-Ledger interviewed more than a dozen contribution recipients who said they followed the law, did not give Birdsall special treatment and knew nothing of the firm’s reimbursements to its employees.
According to records of monetary contributions made to Freeholder Tom Arnone, of the $62,702 in contributions for the 2010 general election, none came directly from Birdsall.
The Star-Ledger’s records show that $1,000 was donated to the Friends of Golden for Sheriff in February 2011 for a Freeholder Director Rob Clifton, Freeholder Tom Arnone and Sheriff Shaun Golden kickoff event; $500 in May 2012 for a private dinner event for Freeholder Tom Arnone and Sheriff Shaun Golden; $300 in June 2010 to the Friends of Tom Arnone for Freeholder for a first responders, law enforcement and Friends of Golden, Clifton and Arnone event; $500 in May 2012 to the Friends of Tom Arnone for Freeholder for a private dinner event for Freeholder Tom Arnone and Sheriff Shaun Golden.
The same goes for Deputy Director Serena DiMaso. Of the $14,949 in contributions for the 2010 general election, none came from Birdsall. DiMaso served on the Holmdel Township Committee from 2002 through 2011.
The Star-Ledger’s records show that $300 was donated to the Committee to Elect DiMaso and Hinds in October 2011 for a Holmdel GOP Fundraiser and Get Together; $500 went to the Committee to Elect Serena DiMaso in October 2009 for a Holmdel Republican Organization Campaign Fundraiser; $800 in April 2012 to the Election Fund of Serena DiMaso for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for Freeholder Serena DiMaso, Esq; $480 to Friends of Freeholder Serena DiMaso, Esq. for a Countdown to St. Patrick’s Day event in March 2012.
According to The Star-Ledger’s records, $2,400 was also donated to Gary Rich for Freeholder from May 2011 through March 2012; $6,000 to Friends of Freeholder Lillian G. Burry or Lillian Burry for Freeholder from September 2008 through November 2011; $5,370 to the Election Fund of John Curley or Friends of John Curley for Freeholder from October 2008 through March 2011.
"As elected officials, we fully support and take care to comply with all relevant election and campaign finance laws," a statement from the Monmouth County Republican Headquarters said.
County officials are aware that Birdsall allegedly engaged in illegal activities to circumvent the campaign finance laws, according to the statement.
"If true, this conduct is unacceptable to all of us," the statement said.
Monmouth County has awarded contracts to Birdsall since 2006. Contracts were also awarded to other engineering companies based on a competitive bidding and evaluation process, according to the statement.
At the time of the Birdsall indictment, Monmouth County had 10 open contracts with the firm in the amount of $1.617 million, spokesperson Laura Kirkpatrick previously said. Some were multiple year contracts and are still open while others expired earlier in 2013. They were each awarded under a competitive bid process, she said.
As of May 31, a couple contracts with Birdsall were still in place, but the county is not awarding any new contracts to the firm, she previously said.
"Prior to the time these allegations were made public, we had no knowledge that any campaign contributions made to us by any company or any group of employees may have violated any state laws or regulations," the statement said. "We support the Attorney General’s efforts to root out corruption in this or any other matter."
Partner Engineering and Science, a California firm, bought Birdsall Services Group for $5.6 million Friday. The firm has offices in Ramsey and Red Bank.
Partner President Joseph Derhake said that contracts would be earned solely on merit and that his firm would make no political donations.
"If we can’t win the work based on merit alone, we don’t want that work,” Derhake said in a news release Friday.