The ever vigilant (and hired gun) Special Counsel, Joseph Alacqua had City Council throw out the nearly $200,000 contract with Borden-Perlman Agency because they had made contributions that allegedly violate the city’s “Pay-to-Play” ordinance.
Segura received some $460 in campaign contributions in 2008 and 2009. Chester, a first time candidate in this year’s election, received $100 in 2009.
Borden-Perlman is a long-time area business with a solid track record of supporting the community and the many non-profits that operate here.
For all intents and purposes, it looks as though Borden-Perlman thought they were in compliance with the law and mindful of contribution thresholds that, if exceeded, would trigger such action as Alacqua initiated.
Segura, who originally voted against the Pay-to-Play measure when it was introduced by petition in 2006, told reporters that while he is in favor of such measures he thinks this is more politics than policy.
"It's funny it just happened at this time," said Segura, a frequent critic of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer. "For them to bring something like that is so pitiful."
“I agree with pay-to-play ordinances,” he continued, “but I think it’s very difficult to know everything about everybody who makes a contribution. I don’t think anyone would think that $460 could influence anybody. This is not right.”
Unfortunately, the councilman seems to think due diligence upon the part of elected officials and/or candidates about who is contributing how much to their campaign funds is not required.
“I would guess that all seven of the City Council members do not know about every political contribution made to us. It’s a shame that a reputable company loses a contract over a lousy small amount of money.”
Chester and his wife, Alysia Welch-Chester, were amongst those who worked to get the city’s ordinance passed. After the City Council voted against the law, it went to a referendum and the public voted it in.
So far, only Welch-Chester has spoken out on the situation. She claims it’s a misinterpretation of the threshold portion of the law and is seeking legal clarification.
“If what Mr. Alacqua is saying is correct, then this was not the intent of the ordinance. We just wanted transparency in government,” Welch-Chester said.
Whether the action taken by Alacqua was correct or not (and if not, what kind of sanctions will be levied against him and/or the City of Trenton?), there is another interesting side to this story.
The firm that got the insurance contract in place of Borden-Perlman is Atlantic Associates of Atlantic City, NJ.
One of the principles of that firm, Bernard Fulton, gave $2500 to Mayor Palmer’s re-election campaign in May of 2006. Another principle, Stowell Fulton, gave $2600 to the Trenton 2006 joint candidates committee that helped re-elect Segura to his council at large seat along with fellow at large councilpersons Paul Pintella and Cordelia Staton.
To be fair, Borden-Perlman contributed $2,150 to Palmer’s campaign in 2006.
But the Fulton’s appear to have a long history of contributing to Democratic candidates in the area including Bonnie Watson Coleman in 2001.
Why would an Atlantic City based insurance agency be interested in who gets elected in Trenton/Mercer County?
Let this situation serve as a warning to all contributors, candidates and incumbents. Be mindful of the laws governing campaign contributions. What might seem innocent and piddling today may not be so insignificant when it appears in the headlines tomorrow.