May 17, 2012 •
The 18 month time-limit prohibiting political contributions under New Jersey’s pay-to-play law starts from the time when bids for a request for proposals (RFP) are submitted, a court has ruled.
The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed a decision prohibiting Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc. from contracting with the New Jersey Schools Development Authority because of a political contribution given prior to Langan’s submission of its bid. Langan had submitted its bid on the due date for the RFP.
The Court examined the language in N.J.S.A. §19:44A-20.14, which describes the prohibition period as “within the 18 months immediately preceding the commencement of negotiations for the contract or agreement.”
The Court reasoned, “[W]e deem the point at which bids are submitted to be the time when ‘negotiations’ occur. Stated differently, because the submission of the bid is the triggering event culminating in the eventual award of a contract, and because the term ‘negotiations’ suggests a point in time at the beginning of the contracting process … the term ‘negotiations’ describes the point in time when bids are submitted. Consequently, we conclude that the agency’s receipt of bids constitutes the ‘commencement of negotiations’.” It rejected the appellant’s contention that a disqualification period begins on the day a political contribution is made, and continues for the next eighteen months.