A special joint committee is questioning AshBritt CEO Randy Perkins today. Democrats say they want to get to the bottom of why Governor Chris Christie handed the politically connected firm a no-bid contract to handle Superstorm Sandy debris clean-up. Republicans feel Christie hired the best company for the job and they claim Democrats are just engaging in an election year political witch hunt.

AshBritt CEO Randy Perkins Is in the center of the picture. (Staff photo)

“Taxpayers have the right to know why the state is using a firm that is charging, in some cases, nearly twice as much as other companies,” says Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, co-chair of today’s joint committee hearing. “They are entitled to know why an emergency plan was not already in place for the work AshBritt is doing. No one questions the need for a timely clean up, but taxpayer money must be spent properly. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.”

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean wasted no time in defending Christie.

“In the midst of the worst natural disaster of our lifetimes, perhaps in this state’s history, the Governor of New Jersey made a decision to hire a firm to help us clean up and return life to normal as quickly as possible,” says Kean. “Criticism for criticism’s sake has, in many ways, paralyzed this legislature over the last several years. Can we, at least when it comes to a natural disaster, please put that partisanship aside?”

Buono Versus Perkins

State Senator Barbara Buono, the presumptive Democratic candidate for Governor hammered Perkins at the hearing. Perkins gave as good as he got.

“It appears to me at this point that the Administration went out of its way to give politically connected out of state firm a lucrative no-bid contract at double the price of its competitors and I find it at this point of the committee indefensible,” says Buono. “You need to know that this committee isn’t about politics.”

Perkins says the contract was competitively bid in Connecticut and he insists FEMA signed off on it.

“I’m sitting here proud because we’re not talking about our performance or our ability to deliver,” explains Perkins. “We have scored an A+ on this project.”

Christie Says Contract Is On The Up And Up

Prior to today politically charged hearing, the Christie Administration offered evidence that the AshBritt was competitively bid. An email to reporters says local governments were given an immediate contracting option to begin debris removal operations as an important first step in the immediate recovery process.

The Administration Contends:

  •  The contract was made available as one option among others for municipalities, many of which chose other available contractors, chose to use municipal resources, or both. Its use was not mandatory. Local governments were made aware of the optional nature of the contract.
  • In total, AshBritt was handling less than half of the debris being disposed of.
  • AshBritt  is a national, rapid-response natural disaster recovery company with extensive experience, having operated in 30 major disasters in 11 states since 1992.
  • AshBritt is a prime, approved contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, conducting debris removal operations following declared states of emergency, as well as holding standing contracts with USACE as the primary responsible organization for debris removal and site management in the event of future disasters for 11 states across the country.
  • Only two days prior to the activation of the Connecticut contract by Governor Christie in New Jersey, the City of New York also “piggybacked” the same contract and pricing to hire Ashbritt for the removal of thousands of cars and marine debris in and around the city.
  • At the same time, the Christie Administration moved quickly to follow New Jersey’s own objective bidding process to provide other competitively bid debris removal contract options now and into the future.
  • 4 competitively approved contracts now exist as additional options for local governments. They are not compelled to use them.