Five businesses penalized by Medford Township for pay-to-play violations

Mayor Chris Buoni issued a stern warning at last week’s council meeting to businesses about violating the township’s pay-to-play contribution limits.

“Firms are welcome to contribute up to the state’s limit, but they cannot do business here,” he said.

Council passed a resolution penalizing five businesses that exceeded the township’s pay-to-play limitations during the 2013 election. All the donations were made to council candidate Stan Filimon’s campaign.

The five contractors penalized were EJA Capacity Insurance in Bordentown, Bach Associates in Haddon Heights, Consulting Engineering Services in Sicklerville, T and M Associates in Red Bank and an affiliate of Remington and Vernick Engineers from Cinnaminson.

Under ordinance 2012–1, contractors and vendors may only contribute a maximum of $300 toward a political candidate’s election campaign. With the exception of T and M Associates, the contractors all donated $2,600 to Filimon’s campaign, the state’s pay-to-play maximum.

“They didn’t break any state laws,” Buoni said. “However, they gave more than we would allow to permit them to do business here. So we are notifying township employees that no contracts can be awarded to these firms for the next four years.”

Each of the five firms’ five-year penalties commences on the date when the illegal contributions were made. The five contributions were made between May and August 2013.

The pay-to-play ordinance was the first passed in 2012 by the current five council members in response to large campaign contributions made by firms in the past. “The elections that preceded our election were in excess of $100,000,” Buoni said. “There was one election were two candidates ran unopposed and they spent over $60,000 in a local township election.”

Buoni said council is taking the pay-to-play ordinance very seriously. He asked the public to inform them of any other firms that may have exceeded the maximum contribution limit.

In other news:

• Buoni informed the public their taxes likely will not be as high as in the original budget presented by township manager Chris Schultz. After council’s first budget workshop on March 1, Buoni said they have lowered the tax rate increase to 1.16 cents. This is down from the three-cent increase proposed by Schultz on Feb. 18
“Council went back over the debt service and tightened that up,” Schultz said. “That equated to about $586,000 in savings.”
Council is still looking at some other expense items as well as developing a maintenance plan for home reevaluation. Buoni said council will continue to try to whittle down the tax increase to zero, though he said he can’t promise anything.
“We’re hoping we can get through this without having to raise taxes this year,” he said.

• Schultz introduced the township’s new public works director Charles Bosco to council. Bosco officially replaced retiring director Jeffrey Kumpel last week. Bosco spoke briefly, saying he hopes to bring more efficient change to the public works department in the near future, including snow and leaf removal.
Schultz said the township will re-locate the public works staff to the utility building on Fostertown Road in the near future.

• Council issued a proclamation to the Women’s Club of Medford in honor of its 100th anniversary. The proclamation was presented to club president Alice Mietz at the beginning of the meeting.

• The next Medford Township council meeting will be on Tuesday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Public Safety Building.