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Little Egg Harbor, Pay-to-play

Crea Cash: Lawyers & Engineers With Little Egg Public Contracts Give Big to Bobbi Jo Crea

LITTLE EGG HARBOR – GOP township committee candidate Barbara “Bobbi Jo” Crea has claimed to be a “fiscal expert” in her recent campaign mailer, and she’s apparently putting those skills to work if her campaign finance disclosure forms are any indication. Reports filed with state election officials revealed that the Republican candidate is receiving a strong backing from politically appointed professionals that currently receive lucrative public contracts from Little Egg Harbor’s municipal government.

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The campaign of self-proclaimed “fiscal expert” Bobbi Jo Crea is being almost entirely underwritten by the same appointed professionals that rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of public contracts from the Little Egg Harbor Township municipal government, state campaign finance disclosure data showed.

In this year’s race, Mrs. Crea made her return to township politics after several years of absence from the dais. Interestingly enough, while she was still in office years ago, Mrs. Crea was known to have been strung along by county party leadership for a promised seat on the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders that never materialized, according to Republican sources with knowledge of the chain of events.

Despite getting let down on the freeholder seat, Crea, a former mayor, has been tapped to be the Little Egg GOP’s standard-bearer for the 2016 election. Starting with the upset victory of two Democrats in 2015, the Little Egg Harbor GOP has been put in a difficult position, and Republican leaders are looking to Crea as their chance to turn things around for their party in the small southern Ocean County town.

With the township committee and some of its members being riled by scandal, thus far, 2016 was even more unkind to the township’s GOP power players. This summer, questions surrounding the 90% tax assessment reduction given to Committeeman John Kehm, along with a months-long “investigation” into the township administrator & police chief that was recently brought to a close have continued to cast a shadow over town hall (and thousands of dollars worth of legal bills for nothing).

Mr. Kehm, who may become mayor once again if Crea is elected, has also been named as a potential witness in the federal criminal trial of two players in the “Bridgegate” George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, despite Little Egg Harbor being miles away from the site of the scandal, which implicated top Republicans loyal to Governor Chris Christie.

Mrs. Crea entered this year’s race after she was substituted on the GOP line in a contentious switcheroo this spring. The switch  saw Little Egg Harbor’s party leadership turn on incumbent mayor Gene Kobryn, a longtime Republican who is seeking reelection as a Democrat after his Repbublican Club membership was revoked.

At least one constituency has enthusiastically gotten behind Crea – the lawyers, engineers & accountants that receive lucrative public contracts in many of Ocean County’s towns appear ready to welcome her back – and they’ve gotten out their checkbooks.

Here’s a selection of just who is putting their money behind Bobbi Jo, according to figures on file with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

George Gilmore

George Gilmore

Gilmore & Monahan, the law firm of Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore that receives the contract to represent Little Egg Harbor Township gave Crea’s primary campaign $2600.

The Ocean County Republican Chairman’s PAC, a Gilmore-controlled political slush fund, gave Crea $2000.

Holman, Frenia & Allison, the Toms River-based accounting firm hired each year as the township’s auditor, gave Crea’s campaign $1000.

Terry Brady

Terry Brady

Brady & Kunz, the law firm (and occasional Trump call center) hired to represent the township’s planning board as general counsel, gave $500 to Crea.

Remington, Vernick & Vena, the engineering firm hired by the township’s municipal utilities authority (MUA) gave Crea $1500.

Earlier this year, we reported that the Remington firm was accused in a leaked police report of buying sports tickets for the former executive director of the Little Egg Harbor MUA in order to keep their contract.

Citta, Holzapfel & Zabarsky, the law firm that receives the contract to represent Little Egg Harbor Township in labor & collective bargaining matters also gave $1000 to Crea.

We would be remiss to say that Little Egg Harbor is the only town where this is happening, because it’s far from the only one. The correlation between campaign contributions and high-value public contracts has already been well explored on this website and will continue to be an area of focus in future campaign finance analysis.

Even a former GOP mayor of another town, who now has a patronage job in local government, candidly admitted to yours truly “The professionals get rich off the backs of the politicians.”

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