Rice’s compliance audit bill advances

TRENTON – A bill that would require better oversight and follow-up of municipalities was released Thursday by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

The bill, S1345, sponsored by Sen. Ron Rice, (D-28), Newark, would require that the Comptroller conduct a compliance audit of a municipality to verify that it has implemented a corrective action plan following a performance audit. 

Rice used his own experiences with the city of Newark as an example of why this bill is necessary. It passed 3-0. The panel’s two GOP members were absent, attending the Republican caucus meeting regarding leadership.

The state’s largest city had received tens of millions of dollars in aid from the state over a period of years going back to 2008, but the accompanying thorough oversight was not there, he said.

And when an audit finally was done, he told the panel today, “all kinds of improprieties” came to light.

“They couldn’t buy toilet paper for the kids in the pools,’’ Rice said.

“They did all kinds of crazy things, for lack of a better word.’’

The bill would prevent a mayor from putting up a roadblock to any further audits and Comptroller oversight.

Rice was critical of the administration of then-Mayor Cory Booker and the layoffs that have occurred at various times.

Under this bill, the so-called compliance audit must begin no less than 120 days following the submittal of the performance audit to the Comptroller and be completed within 12 months.  The municipality would be responsible for the total cost of the compliance audit. 

The bill also permits the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs to refer findings that may constitute alleged criminal conduct to the Attorney General or other appropriate prosecutorial authority for further civil or administrative action.

The amendments would remove one section that would have had towns reimbursing the state for the entire cost of a compliance audit.

Rice’s compliance audit  bill advances