Saying he knew he would take a "political hit" for it later, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty defended the use of politically connected contractors for no-bid projects after Hurricane Sandy.
A divisive meeting of the Belmar Borough Council last night often returned to the topic of why Belmar chose to use AshBritt as a contractor for hauling debris when Doherty's wife Maggie Moran worked for an agency that was marketing AshBritt contracts to government, Conti.
Doherty recused himself from any voting relating to AshBritt and the mayor said his wife also recused herself from working with the borough, but Councilman Jim Beam wanted answers as to why Moran would be receiving an email discussing the contract.
Doherty said the email, sent by Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly to several individuals as well as Moran, was sent to his wife simply because Doherty's phone was not working and Connolly thought using Moran's email was a way to reach the mayor during the storm power outage.
The meeting continued to draw supporters for the borough administration and the mayor, while others expressed disappointment and outrage.
Belmar put the emergency contracts online after Beam filed an Open Public Records Request for the information.
Two contracts in particular drew criticism. In one, AshBritt was awarded a no-bid emergency contract for hauling debris. The wife's mayor works for Conti, a company AshBritt hired to market itself to stakeholders for securing storm debris contracts.
A second issue was with contractor Ferriera, hired to pump out the lakes and borough after a massive storm surge left a quarter mile of high waters throughout Belmar. A Ferriera manager was among political contributers to Doherty's 2010 mayoral reelection bid.
Among the criticism: why did former borough administrator Bill Young manage to choose two companies that were politically connected, and why did the borough continue to administer no-bid contracts instead of competitivey bidding?
Doherty said the companies were chosen simply because "they were the best."
"They did a phenomenal job," Doherty said to some audience applause.