More on the No-Bid Contract to Ashcroft
Today the NYTimes had some more details about the no-bid contracts NJ USA Chris Christie has been giving out. It seems there were some more than originally reported. For example:
His office negotiated one such arrangement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which was rife with Medicaid fraud, patronage and financial abuses. Under the monitor he appointed, the school reformed many of its bookkeeping procedures and ended its practice of awarding no-bid contracts.
Yet one of the biggest no-bid contracts to come out of the investigation was for the monitor itself: Mr. Christie appointed the law firm of John Inglesino, a Republican who served with him as a Morris County freeholder, and Herbert Stern, a former United States attorney, whom he has described as a mentor. Their firm ultimately billed the state for more than $10 million.
Christie was an unlikely choice for the relatively high profile job of NJ USA because he did not have any prior criminal law experience.
The lofty stature enjoyed by Mr. Christie — who began his job surrounded by doubts because of a background as a Republican campaign aide and fund-raiser and his lack of courtroom experience — is a testament to his resourcefulness and political savvy. Indeed, a New Jersey federal bar group tried to block the appointment of Mr. Christie, who was born and raised in New Jersey, because he had no trial, criminal law or investigative experience. A graduate of the University of Delaware and Seton Hall Law School, he had specialized in corporate securities and elections law. Democrats were also wary of Mr. Christie’s extensive background as a Republican campaigner and fund-raiser; he served one term as a Morris County freeholder, and worked on the campaigns of President George H. W. Bush. Then in 2000 he was a top-tier fund-raiser for George W. Bush, who appointed him United States attorney. But Mr. Christie silenced some skeptics by producing impressive results and disarmed others with his Jersey-guy personality. He reorganized the office into smaller units that were easier to supervise and pushed his assistants to produce.
I don’t think it was a testament to "political savvy" so much as a testament to management skills. I can tell you from my own vantage point that people in the NY legal community began talking about him more favorably after his office started producing results. Even if he didn’t know much about being a prosecutor, he clearly had folks working for him who did, and they produced a string of "convictions or guilty pleas against more than 125 public officials without losing a case."
Which makes the current controversy all the more confusing. The NYTimes–please note the NYTIMES, not the LHP–speculates about why that might be.
In the coming months, he may face more scrutiny if the Government Accountability Office, as requested, investigates one of those contracts, worth at least $28 million, awarded to his previous boss, John Ashcroft, the former United States attorney general, to monitor a medical-prosthetics company after it acknowledged defrauding consumers. [snip] The attention comes at an inopportune time for Mr. Christie, who most political leaders in New Jersey believe plans to run for governor next year. [snip] Mr. Christie declined several requests to be interviewed for this article, but he has insisted that Mr. Ashcroft’s contract was based on merit rather than political loyalty or the hope that Mr. Ashcroft might one day repay the favor as a political fund-raiser.
The article also says that he intends to change his ways and offer a short list of 3 names of potential monitors from which the defendant will choose, claiming that this is the method used by the other US Attorneys.
Actually, he is somewhat mistaken. Sometimes the US Attorney office puts out what is called a "request for proposals" (RFP) or other times a "request for qualifications" (RFQ) which are both forms of competitive bidding. I know this because in my practice, we have responded to some of those. In the Computer Associates monitorship in EDNY, the defendant was tasked to come up with a short list of potential monitors from which the judge, USAO and defendant entered into consensus discussions. Sometimes, in fact in the old days quite often, the judge selected the monitor.
Other agencies such as the NY City School Construction Authority maintain a pre-qualified list of potential monitors that it has background checked and put through a wringer verifying the qualifications and capabilities of the potential monitor. The defendant picks one off that list.
The "pick from a short list of my friends" method, though an improvement over the "this is the guy, hire him" method, still leaves much room for cronyism. For those who would like a better idea of how monitorships and private sector inspector generals are supposed to work, read the code of ethics here.
This ain’t rocket science, I don’t know why it’s so hard for him–or Attorney General Mukasey–to get it right.