Oceanport ready to adopt pay-to-play ban

Mayor says ban will restore trust in government


Staff Writer

OCEANPORT — After talking about a pay-to-play ordinance for more than a year, the Oceanport council introduced a ban on awarding no-bid government contracts to campaign donors at the Nov. 18 council meeting.

Pay-to-play is the practice of making large political contributions in exchange for lucrative contacts, Mayor Maria Gatta explained. “You pay to play.”

The pay-to-play ordinance will help make things fair and open in the borough, she said.

If adopted, the ordinance will prohibit the municipality from entering into a contract with a professional entity that has made any contributions, including in-kind contributions, to a borough candidate’s campaign within one calendar year preceding the contract date.

“The Borough of Oceanport will set maximum amounts professional business entities may contribute politically beyond which they become ineligible to receive a public professional service contract from the Borough of Oceanport,” the ordinance states.

A professional business entity would be limited to contributing a maximum of $300 annually to any borough council or mayoral candidate, or $400 annually to the borough, Monmouth County party committee or political action committee (PAC), under the measure.

The public hearing is scheduled for the Dec. 2 council meeting.

It is currently permissible for business entities to make substantial political contributions to the local election campaigns of the elected officials who are responsible for awarding professional service contracts in the borough, according to the mayor.

“This was something I discussed when I became mayor on Jan. 1,” Gatta said. “It is important to be above reproach by having in place a pay-to-play ordinance.”

Prior to awarding a contract for a service to any business entity, a sworn statement would be required from the business stating that the bidder has not made a contribution in violation of the restrictions contained within the ordinance.

A business may remedy a violation, if, within 30 days after the general election, the business notifies the council in writing and receives a reimbursement of a contribution from the candidate.

“People are looking for open ethical governments,” Gatta said. “I want to erase any perception of any wrongdoing by anyone.”

“We want to restore the faith [in government],” she said.