What is “Pay to Play”?

A plain language summary of the proposed ordinance that would ban “Pay to Play” public contracting reform.


Most township contracts (including construction contracts, equipment purchases, and the like) are given out only after the township gets sealed written bids, which are opened publicly. The lowest responsible bidder gets the work, and this process makes sure that the taxpayers pay a fair price and get a qualified company to do this work.

Unfortunately, many other contracts awarded by townships are handed out without bids. These include professional services (such as lawyers, engineers, or accountants) or banking, insurance, or consulting services.

“Pay-to-play” refers to a fairly common practice in this state, where business owners who have given political contributions to local candidates are rewarded with these no-bid contracts. Many people think “pay-to-play” is wrong, because it doesn’t provide guarantees that taxpayers are getting the best price for what can sometimes be a costly contract. In addition, people who see insiders like this getting big contracts can lose faith in the local government.

This ordinance ends pay-to-play when it comes to no-bid contracts. It provides that any person or company that has made campaign contributions to incumbents or candidates for Mayor or Township Council in the past two years is not allowed to receive a no-bid contract for professional services or for banking, insurance or consulting services.

These rules apply to a bidder’s spouse and children living at home, and to the officers, or 10-percent-or-more owners of the bidding company.

In addition, a person or company that gives money to the township or Ocean County political parties is also barred from getting a contract.

Next, no person or company having a no-bid contract is allowed to give campaign contributions to incumbents, candidates, or local or county political parties during the term of the contract.

To ensure the law is being followed, companies must make a statement under oath that they have not given any contributions that would cause them to lose their right to bid. In addition, a bidder caught violating the law is punished by losing the right to receive public contracts for four years.

Once enough signatures are collected on this petition, the ordinance will be presented to the township council. If they approve it, it will take effect 20 days after the council passes it. If they reject it, the people of the township will vote on this at a referendum this November. If the people pass it, it takes effect 20 days after the people vote to approve it.

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