By Phil Stilton
NEWARK–George Gilmore, chairman of the Ocean County Republican Club and Maggie Moran, a former aide to Governor Jon Corzine both drew the attention of the Star Ledger on Sunday in a report that charged both with using their political influence to convince local municipalities to choose AshBritt for their Hurricane Sandy debris removal contracts.
Mr. Gilmore, the Ledger says, admitted on Sunday that in addition to representing several of those towns as legal counsel, he is also on AshBritt’s payroll.
AshBritt was chosen by 17 of Ocean County’s 33 towns for debris removal services. The Ledger charges Mr. Gilmore and Ms. Moran with making sales pitches to local officials so AshBritt can expand a no-bid state contract worth up to $100,000,000.
The newspaper claimed it had scoured through hundreds of documents, but did not reference those documents in their report, nor provide direct evidence of any campaigning or lobbying done on behalf of AshBritt by Gilmore or Moran.
In a call today with the Ocean Signal, Mr. Gilmore said he did not solicit any town to use the county’s contract with AshBritt. Gilmore added that towns used their own discretion and many chose not to utilize the firm.
The Ledger report states:
Gilmore, the Ocean County GOP chairman and one of the most powerful players in state Republican politics, confirmed yesterday that he was hired by AshBritt.
He declined to say what his role is or address whether he avoided conflicts of interest due to his other role as attorney for towns, including Seaside Heights and Jackson Township, that used the firm.
“Due to a confidentiality clause, I cannot comment,” Gilmore said. AshBritt’s Moskowitz declined to answer a question about Gilmore.
Ocean County Administrator Carl Block said in the Ledger report, he was not sure what, if any, influence Gilmore had on helping secure contracts.
“Some Democratic towns used AshBritt, some Republicans towns didn’t,” Block said. “How many were influenced by George or not, I don’t know.”
The Ledger report prompted New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney to strike while the iron was hot. Sweeney used the report as a platform to stiffen lobbying laws. Sweeney also referred the Ash Britt matter to the Legislative Oversight Committee.
You can read the full Star Ledger report on their website: Florida cleanup firm’s political ties sweep across N.J.
Addition: Added comments from George Gilmore initially omitted.