The Debacle in Delran prepares to come to a head this Tuesday as the Town Council meets for the first time since the fiery meeting on November 9th when the council was asked nearly a dozen times if they had received any quotes above the bidding threshold of $44,000 that included both the video and staging services, yet they refused to answer. It was like a scene out A Few Good Men as I barked the question over and over like I was Tom Cruise questioning Jack Nicholson, but instead of old Col. Jessup ordering a code red, it was Solicitor Sal who allegedly ordered NJ’s youngest political player, Colin Rafferty, to split the bids to circumvent the RFP process. That Township Council meeting video for 11-09-21 has been viewed nearly 700 times on the town’s YouTube page in just 2 weeks, so it’s obvious people are interested, but how did it get to this point?
1. This has never been about Carli Lloyd or the need for her to be celebrated by the town. So what is this all about?
The Debacle in Delran has always been about the financial records, documents and information that the Township has failed to accurately provide and or has been purposely omitted to cover up what is now a clear case of corruption. When I first got involved in this it was merely to answer one simple question, “How Much Did Delran Spend On The Carli Lloyd Celebration?“. Once that article was posted on the Town’s most popular FaceBook page, Delran Residents Official, people took it the wrong way and all hell broke loose, with people attacking me from all sides. One of those people was the Town’s own Mayor, Gary Catrambone, who on 10-19-21, created a post that made claims of a non-resident (Me) that was making claims of bribery and coercion as it pertained to a donor to the event who also just happened to have an outstanding variance application that was set to be heard just a week later, but the variance hearing was postponed until a later date after the false allegations set forth by the Mayor created what some could see as an appearance of impropriety, which is something I had never alleged.
2. How much did the Carli Lloyd celebration actually cost?
When I asked for all costs for the event I was given a printout that shows $37,633.88 in costs, a number that should have included all of the costs, but for some reason, it didn’t. After some folks complained that the numbers I released didn’t include any of the donations that were given by the Township, I again asked the clerk to send me all costs plus all donations received. The clerk sent me back a spreadsheet showing that the costs had now changed to a lower number and there were certain services listed that were not listed on the original spreadsheet, in particular, a company called Go Events. The costs on the new spreadsheet equaled roughly $28,000 in costs and the donations received were roughly $35,000, but as we learned at the 10-26-21 Delran Council work session, the costs were actually $90,456 to throw the event and the donations were $46,166. However, the $90,456 in costs still does not include the the hundreds of overtime hours for the Police Department nor for the Public Works Department. So the costs of the 2.5 hour event were well over $100,000 for an event that brought out maybe 200 guests!
3. Is Go Events connected to Delran Mayor Gary Catrambone? If so, how?
Go Events is the company that the Township paid $5950 to hire a band and DJ for the retirement celebration. When I noticed that the Township had omitted Go Events from their first response, and when I realized that the Delran Mayor runs his own DJ company, I felt that looking into Go Events could lead to a conflict of interest, which it did. It turns out it is the Mayor’s own Nephew, Frank Catrambone, who owns Go Events. Frank is not only the Mayor’s nephew, but he is also the Mayor’s boss at Center Stage Entertainment, a company that is registered at the same address as Go Events. Interestingly, even though he was listed as Center Stage’s original DJ, Mayor Gary Catrambone’s page was deleted from the Center Stage Entertainment website after the Mayor admitted that Go Events was owned by his nephew at the 11-9-21 meeting.
Alex Glover also works for Center Stage Entertainment and he was one of the people seeking quotes on behalf of the township for the retirement party. Alex was accepting quotes on behalf of the Township as a representative of Center Stage Entertainment, the company Mayor Gary Catrambone lists first on his financial disclosure statement as one of his employers. Not only was Alex Glover seeking quotes on behalf of the township as a representative of the same company that the Mayor works for and his nephew owns, Alex is also the person who signed the contract on behalf of Go Events with the Township’s Administrator, Jeff Hatcher. This makes him not just the seeker of services that he is negotiating on behalf of the township for, but also the vendor of the services, hence how he negotiated such a great deal on behalf of the tax payers by negotiating his own contract for $5950 for the DJ and band.
4. Did the Township have any contracts that included both the staging and video services that were above the bidding threshold of $44,000? Is so, were those contracts split?
Many might wonder why I asked the Township Council and Solicitor if they received any contracts that included both the video and staging services that were above $44,000, and more importantly, why they wouldn’t answer? It’s simple, bid splitting is not only unethical, it is also illegal. Bid splitting is a form of procurement fraud against the government, and hence, against the tax payers. Bidding thresholds are safeguards put in place so large scale projects have more scrutiny and have less of an opportunity for corruption. Title 40A – MUNICIPALITIES AND COUNTIES Section 40A:11-7 – Contracts not to be divided, states that “no contract…shall be divided, so as to bring it or any of the parts thereof under the bid threshold”, but that is exactly what was done in this situation, not just once, but twice.
The truth is that the Township and or its entertainment consultant didn’t just have one quote that included both the video and staging services above the bidding threshold, they actually had 4 of them. Two were from Starlite, with one being for $150,000 and another being for $61,500, both including video and staging services in each contract. The other Two were from Spellcaster, with one for $61,804 and the other being $59,593, both again including the video and staging services in each contract.
As you may have read in the emails acquired from the Township, Colin Rafferty wrote to a representative from Starlite that they were “having an issue with the bidding threshold”, which at that point they were working with a contract that was cut down from $150,000 to $61,500, which was still well over the bidding threshold of 44K. Colin then goes on in the next email to say that the Solicitor directed him that “It must be two separate contracts”, referring to the staging and video services that were then broken into two separate service contracts, one being for $39,000 from Starlite, and the other being for $22,500 from Video Walltronics, even though both services were already offered in one by Starlite for the exact same amount of $61,500.
The second example of bid splitting comes from the company that placed the lowest of the quotes for both services but for some reason was rejected, Spellcaster, who was more than capable of handling the event. Spellcaster has thrown thousands of concerts and events, including some of the biggest names in show business, so they had the right credentials. Spellcaster, just like Starlite, actually put in three quotes. Two included both the staging and video services, which were both above the bidding threshold, and one that only included the staging services, which was for $34,165.
The other quote that Alex Glover received on behalf of the Township for the video services was from a company called Kathedral Event Center, which was for $25,215, yet when I looked through Kathedral’s website I couldn’t find anything about them renting giant video screens. That is because Kathedral Event Center is just that, it’s an event center that holds weddings and other large scale events, but it doesn’t rent video screens trailers. So why would Kathedral Event Center write a quote for the same video screens that were already being offered by Spellcaster? Well I’d bet that’s probably due to the fact that both companies are owned by the same person.
5. What’s next? Tuesday night’s political showdown in Delran!
If you have been paying attention to the events throughout the Delran Debacle, you would know that the last two public council meetings have been turning points in my investigations. At the 10-26 meeting we finally learned that the actual costs of the event were not the $37,633 that the township first reported, but they were at least $90,456, which still didn’t include Police and Public Works. At the 11-9 meeting we finally learned just how Frank Catrambone is related to the mayor, which was that he was both his boss and his nephew. So what will we learn at the 11-23 meeting?
Will Council President Burrell or the Solicitor answer as to why the Township received at least 4 contracts above the 44K threshold that included all services that were later split? Will the Solicitor respond to the questions raised by the emails from Colin Rafferty that claimed the Solicitor directed him to split the contract from Starlite into two contacts after Colin openly admitting to having an “issue with the bidding threshold”? Will the Mayor explain why the township hired his nephews company for the inflated cost of $5950 for a DJ and a Band and why his co-worker is negotiating on behalf of the town? Will Jeff Hatcher tell us why he was the one who ordered Go Events and allowed the Mayor’s co-worker, Alex Glover at Center Stage Entertainment, to both negotiate on behalf of the town at the same time that he was signing as the representative for Go Events?
These questions and more will surely be asked at this Tuesday’s anticipated council meeting, whether they will be answered will be a whole other story.