Bad Credit Report

It’s a little ironic that, after a month in which a lot of the civic conversation in Trenton was devoted to the question of whether candidates for public office in the city should be encouraged to release copies of their personal credit reports,  the credit of the City of Trenton itself is at rock bottom.

Jenna Pizzi reports today in the Trenton Times, “Another contractor has said they have been waiting for two years to be paid by the city of Trenton for public works projects they completed in 2011. Diamond Contracting owner and President John Kovacs said his company was hired to install handicapped ramps in the city’s sidewalks as part of a federally funded grant project, but is still owed $122,000 for the work.”

No one contests that the City owes the money: “Kovacs said the company sued the city in 2012 and got a judgment four months ago from a Superior Court judge saying that the city should pay the company the $122,000, but despite daily calls to the city engineer, Kovacs said he hasn’t seen a cent.”

Another vendor cited in today’s Pizzi article claims they are owned $98,000 by the City, also for work dating back more than 2 years. Today’s article does not mention what Pizzi reported a week ago, that the failure to get paid by the City created a  cash crisis leading the owner of that company, Jonico Inc, to close its doors. “The [City of Trenton] literally put us out of business,” according to Joe DeLuca. DeLuca is suing the City for $600,000 to recover the money owed, plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Anyone care to wager that he won’t win his case?

For its part, the City isn’t even making an effort to defend its position to the media. According to today’s Times, “City Business Administrator Sam Hutchinson referred all questions about the payments to the law department. Law Director Caryl Amana did not return several messages seeking comment.”

Of course.

In both cases, the vendors got stiffed by Trenton because federal grants won by the City to perform street and sidewalk reconstruction around the city were lost due to the City’s usual incompetence. In this case “the city failed to meet the reporting requirements of the Federal Highway Administration” in the management of this federal grant.

None of this is news. The local media, and this space, have been talking about this for a long time; for example once in March 2012 and again in August of that same year. My take on things from that March is still pretty valid:

Tony Mack and his Administration are ruining this city. Costing us millions of dollars, and almost as much in whatever Good Will may residually remain among those state and federal agencies who keep us afloat. They are causing the severe distress of several of the small businesses unlucky enough to have chosen to work with us, and probably scaring away all the others! They continue to drive away talented people, with no one lined up to replace them.

At the risk of once more repeating myself, all of this – the City’s ruinous management, the waste of public funds, and the individuals responsible for it – has been known for going on four years now. Little to no corrective action has been taken, or even attempted by a City Council that has been by turns too timid, confused, divided and distracted to take any meaningful action. As a result, the wreckage that this Administration has caused, aided and abetted by this Council, will take years to clear. The best they could manage was a weak voluntary resolution asking city candidates to, pretty please, consider maybe perhaps releasing their personal credit histories. A measure that didn’t even get passed.

At this point, Council could at least try to regain a shred of professionalism and dignity and haul “Where in the World is” Sam Hutchinson and Caryk Amana into public session and ask:

  • When will these vendors get paid?
  • Why is Diamond Construction still not paid four months after a judge ordered the City to pay?
  • Why does the City always let these matters go to court when it knows it has no case and will get its ass kicked?
  • When will those individuals responsible for this be held accountable?
  • When will there be consequences??

You know, I don’t think the seven members of this Council need to worry about releasing their personal credit reports. We already have pretty conclusively poor reports and bad track records from them.

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