AshBritt CEO Deflates Buono’s Hopes Of Making Clean Up A Campaign Issue

Trenton Democrats’ continuing quest to turn Governor Christie’s strongest issue against him suffered a set back yesterday when AshBritt CEO Randall Perkins won over Democratic members of a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee and flummoxed presumed gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono by calling her on the political motivation of her questioning.

Facing four hours of questioning by the bi-partisan committee chaired by Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), Perkins frequently praised the legislators for exercising their oversight duties, while combatively swatting back Democratic allegations of impropriety disguised as questions.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) praised Perkins as a “take charge type of guy” who performed well at the hearing and whose company did an excellent job cleaning up much of coastal New Jersey in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Buono and Senator Loretta Weinberg were the chief attack dogs for the Democrats. Republicans on the committee, lead by Senator Joe Kyrillos and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick frequently derided for the “campaign rally” type of rhetoric coming from Democratic questioners.

Buono gasped and became inaudible on the live internet feed of the proceeding when, towards the end of the hearing while attempting to rehash ground already covered, Perkins said, “with all due respect, you’re running for governor.”  When Buono composed herself, she snapped back at Perkins denying political motivations and proclaiming how important the cost of shore clean up is to her 18th district constituents in the Middlesex County towns of East Brunswick, Edison, Helmetta, Highland Park,
Metuchen, South Plainfield, and South River.  Perkins smirked during Buono’s angry retort, according to a tweet by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Matt Katz.

The Democrats had hope to elicit testimony to demonstrate that the Christie administration was motivated by cronyism in awarding AshBritt the State’s post-Sandy clean up contract, that AshBritt overcharged municipalities that piggybacked on that contract and that FEMA reimbursement was at risk to the towns that used the contact because it was first negotiated by Connecticut in 2008.

Perkins retorted that there was “zero risk” that FEMA would not reimburse towns for his firm’s work.  He said that FEMA “was at the table” and “blessed” the contract while it was being negotiated.  He referred the committee to the Attorney General’s office for documentation of the “blessing.”

He said that New Jersey got “the best contractor at discount rates” by using the 2008 Connecticut contract. He said that he would have been willing to negotiate, but implied that his firms rates would have gone higher. “The Connecticut contract would have been my starting point.”  He pointed the New York, whose clean up was managed by the Army Corp of Engineers, at higher rates.  New York is still being cleaned up, with the Fire Island clean up just starting.

Perkins said there was only one New Jersey town that used outside contractors for Sandy clean up that got a better financial deal than his customers got.

State Senator Joe Kyrillos frequently chastised his Democratic colleagues for politicising the Sandy clean up efforts. “For those of you who don’t live in the areas affected, I don’t think you have any idea what was it like,” Kryillos said.

Following the hearing, Kryillos issued this statement:

The residents of my district, and so many others, were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. There is nothing that matters more to them than returning their homes and communities to normal, and that process began once the waters receded with cleanup.

Fortunately, that cleanup process was expedited by a sound decision by the Christie Administration to put an emergency contract in place with a firm that was tested under extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina.

Today’s hearing taught us that the Governor acted in the best interests of the people of this state and in a manner that will withstand scrutiny by the federal government and most importantly, secure the federal funding for reimbursement.

We also learned that there are some who, in their relentless campaign to criticize the governor, will even politicize a natural disaster. That is perhaps the most important lesson from today’s political theater, and it is disgraceful.

 

More hearings could be coming.  Gordon told the Asbury Park Press that he would like to hear from AshBritt’s competitors, municipal officials and members of the Christie administration who decided on hiring the Florida firm.

Posted: March 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Barbara Buono, Chris Christie, Christie Administration, FEMA, Hurricane Sandy, NJ State Legislature, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

9 Comments on “AshBritt CEO Deflates Buono’s Hopes Of Making Clean Up A Campaign Issue”

  1. speedkillsu said at 9:23 am on March 9th, 2013:

    where were these so “watchdogs” when 8 BILLION of School Construction Corp went missing ,or don’t our democrats think money from New Jersey’s taxpayers is as important as FEMA’s money ….or perhaps it that who got that money is the real issue….

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  3. Speed, you are so right! said at 1:55 pm on March 9th, 2013:

    Great point to bring up that sore subject: the moment that “School ConstructionCorp.” Was formed, many in the field were immediately suspect, because it gave near-blank checks and little accountability on many rushed projects, and allowed for perceived skirting of bidding laws, and lots of high union wages, not to mention some projects winding up not completed or poorly built, all to the detriment of the taxpayers and kids. The only things we can count on is death, taxes, and the total hypocrisy of Democrats, once again: if they handle it, there is no accountability or ever anything wrong: if the R’s handle it: throw around accusations and innuendo until it sticks, for their own political gain! They are so ridiculous, and are obviously grasping at any straws, and it’s only March, already!

  4. Keyport4 said at 4:10 pm on March 9th, 2013:

    Art dont show your bias too much. Buono snapped back at him, didn’t hesitate for a second and didn’t gasp or become inaudible at all. Why don’t you watch the video on Politicker and read every other transcript from every real news site that reports facts

    As someone who was at the hearing, Perkins smirked at her, came off very condescending and ended up apologizing at the end for being inappropriate. From what i heard, the governors office was not happy with him.

    Billions of dollars in taxpayers went into a waste. Show some concern Art instead of blind party loyalty for someone who is supposed to be a “Highlands guy”

    From NJ.com

    Later in the hearing, Buono pressed Perkins on whether the state could have negotiated a different contract, offering several scenarios.

    “I have answered the questions,” Perkins said. “I agree with what this committee is doing. I know it has been stated here that this is not a political event, but with all due respect, you are running for governor.”

    Buono quickly pounced, calling the comment “inappropriate” and a “disservice to the people who elected me.”

    “I represent the 18th legislative district, and I bet you don’t know where that is,” Buono said.

  5. Art Gallagher said at 5:00 pm on March 9th, 2013:

    Keyport4,

    I reported it the way I heard it from the live internet audio.

    Watching the PolitickerNJ video does give a different perspective. But, if you watch and listen closely, there is a momentary gap, which I heard as a gasp, between when Perkins accuses Buono of being partisan and when she snaps back with her snarky,” I bet you don’t know where that is,” about her district. Most New Jerseyans probably don’t know where the 18th district is, unless they read my piece above.

    You can also see on the PolitickerNJ video where she became inaudible. Actually, you can see and hear. where she started speaking into the microphone.

    Since you were there, how did I do reporting on Caputo’s comments, the AshBritt price vis a vis New York and the Army Corp and the characterization that FEMA was at the table and “blessed” the transaction?

    I announce my bias right in the mast head. I also welcome you to express your own biased point of view. That’s being fair and biased.

    Click on the tags to read my previous AshBritt coverage.

  6. Joe D. said at 4:45 pm on March 10th, 2013:

    Barbara Buono is running for governor? In which state? Who is Barbara Buono? Get the point?

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