Howard Birdsall, 72 of Brielle, pleaded guilty today to corporate misconduct for his role in a criminal scheme in which more than $1 million in corporate political contributions were illegally made through employees of his now defunct engineering firm, Birdsall Services Group, in violation New Jersey’s pay-to-play law, according to an announcement by the NJ Attorney General’s Office.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Birdsall be sentenced to four years in state prison. He also must pay $49,808 to the state, representing forfeiture of the political contributions that he made on behalf Birdsall Services Group that were reimbursed by the firm. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22.
“As the CEO and largest shareholder of Birdsall Services Group, Howard Birdsall reaped major profits from the millions of dollars in public contracts his firm secured each year – contracts that should have been off limits based on the illegal campaign contributions made by the firm,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This plea should serve as a warning to any corporate officials who would engage in this type of criminal scheme to skirt our pay-to-play law and skew public contracting in their favor.”
“Many millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are spent on public contracts each year in New Jersey. Our citizens have a right to expect that those contracts will be awarded through a transparent process that strictly serves the public interest, not the interests of the politically connected,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll aggressively prosecute anyone who engages in criminal conduct to evade our laws in this area.”
Under the scheme, instead of Birdsall Services Group making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm made personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable. Multiple personal checks were bundled together at Birdsall Services Group and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization. The shareholders and employees were then illegally reimbursed by Birdsall Services Group, directly or indirectly, through added bonus payments, and the firm falsely omitted the illegally reimbursed contributions in documents filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and with government agencies that awarded the firm engineering services contracts. The scheme continued for more than six years and involved more than $1 million in contributions.
Birdsall was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Brookdale Community College from 1998 until April of 2011. He resigned from the Brookdale Board in the wake of the scandal that resulted from the prosecution of former Brookdale President Peter Burnham.