In Bergen County, the Republican freeholder candidates’ opposition researchers have been in overdrive, accusing the Bergen County Improvement Authority of being a mere patronage arm of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, and blaming the incumbent freeholders of doing nothing to stop it.
The head of the BCIA, in turn, said that the Republicans are playing fast and loose with the facts by implying that the self-funding organization receives taxpayer money, and that grantees – not the authority – chooses bonding professionals.
Bergen County Republican freeholder candidates Chris Calabrese, Jeff Heller and Paul Duggan issued a press release this week accusing the BCIA of generating $4.2 million in fees in issuing bonds to BCDO donors.
“There is nothingindispensable about the BCIA – except to the extent that it uses county resources to pay large fees to firms that donate big money to feed the corrupt political machine of the indicted Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Ferriero,” said Calabrese (red font emphasis intended by the Republicans).
The Republicans pointed to the BCIA’s loans to the ill-fated EnCap, which generated a $50,000 fee for former BCDO general counsel Dennis Oury, who was indicted last month along with Ferriero on unrelated charges.
They further charged a conflict of interest in that the bond counsel firm McManimon and Scotland – among the largest of usch firms in the state – made fees by brokering a loan between the BCIA and BCUA while advising the BCUA. They also charged that a Jersey City firm that donated $160,000 from the BCDO made $1.3 million in fees from BCIA bonds, and that a former Democratic National Commiteewoman has made hundreds of thousands in fees.
Ron O’Malley, who chairs the BCIA, said the charges were frivolous and ridiculous, however. He said that the organization receives no county money, and that it doesn’t pick which firms the parties it loans to choose. It self-funds its own operations through bonding.
“Tell them to go into the county budget and find where we get this money, because if we’re getting it, we don’t know we have it,” he said.
O’Malley said the organization charges no fees when county agencies bond through the organization, ultimately saving the county money. He pointed to the refinancing of the county administration building that he said ultimately saved Bergen County $3 million, since it used to have to pay fees to a different bonding organization.