Court decisions allowing public bidders in N.J. to use PO boxes alarm advocates

December 6, 2022

A little-noticed court decision last month will give companies more leeway as to which addresses they list when bidding for local government public contracts in New Jersey.

The Appellate Division decision — which allowed a paving company to list its owners ’post office box instead of their home address — is minor in scope. But an expert in government procurement and an attorney who advocates for more open government said the ruling is part of an unwelcome trend of chipping away at transparency requirements at all levels of government in New Jersey.

“The overall trend is disturbing,” said Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Bloustein Center for Local Government Research at Rutgers University, who spent nearly 40 years in local government administration, including 26 years at the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services.

“Anyone can get a post office box anywhere. ”The decision: For decades — since 1977, according to Pfeiffer — local governments have required that anyone with at least a 10-percent stake in a company seeking public contracts disclose their home address.

The implications: Pfeiffer said the impact of the appellate decision will be limited, but will likely make it easier for some bidders who might otherwise be disqualified to slip through the cracks.

Pfeiffer gave a hypothetical example of a father and son who have the same name, or perhaps the same first and last names with a different middle initial. One could have something disqualifying in his background, but it would not be immediately apparent to local officials which one is bidding on a project. 12/5/22 | PDF Version

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