TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A federal audit has found New Jersey did nothing wrong when it used a no-bid contract to hire a firm to clean up debris left behind by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
But the U.S. Homeland Security Department says that towns that continued to use the firm for more than 60 days without putting the work out to bid might not be fully reimbursed by the federal government.
The contract and the firm, Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based AshBritt, drew the ire of lawmakers months after Sandy struck. It marked the first major political debate over how Gov. Chris Christie's administration responded to Sandy and led to a testy legislative hearing a year ago.
Unlike many hurricane-prone places, New Jersey did not have a standing contract in place for debris removal in case of a massive natural disaster. When the storm hit, the state hired AshBritt using most of the terms of Connecticut's standing emergency deal with the company.
New Jersey officials and AshBritt said it was a cheaper option than using a contract negotiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Part of the reason for anger from Democrats was the firm's political connections. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Christie confidant and fellow Republican, was a lobbyist for the firm. And several prominent New Jersey officials — both Republicans and Democrats — were hired as consultants.