A Grand Street company that contributed in excess of legal campaign donation limit to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ campaign is slated to receive a $600,000 city contract to provide supplies to the Department of Public Works.
Grand Hardware is to provide supplies for two years, each year collecting $300,000, according to city records. The city’s purchasing agent’s office said the contract was advertised on the city’s website and on local newspapers.
Only one firm bid on the contract, and that was the Grand Street business, according to the purchasing office. When told only one company bid on the contract, Kenneth Morris councilman at-large, remarked, “For $600,000!”
Morris expressed surprise that only one firm would bid on such a lucrative contract.
“That might be something to look at,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, about a single bid. “I’ve always pushed that we have more folks responding.”
McKoy said the company has been doing business with the city for a number of years. He said the city is slowly losing its small hardware stores. McKoy said he was not sure whether there were stipulations in the request for proposal (RFP) that prevented outside firms from responding.
“We don’t know what services this vendor is going to supply,” said Morris. “It may be the best vendor and we might be getting good prices, but I don’t know that yet.”
The resolution awarding the contract, which is up for vote tonight, does not state what services the company will provide to the city.
“I don’t know the nature of the contract,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman. He said it’s good to see city companies receiving contracts. “We want to give the small business in Paterson a chance,” said Akhtaruzzaman.
Purchasing agent Harry Cevallos did not respond to messages seeking his comments for this story.
“If it’s above board I wouldn’t have any issues with it,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. “We’d have to see the specifications as far as that bid is concerned.”
“I have to look into this before I make a comment,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large. A look at the mayor’s campaign finance report shows a Thomas Neil, who lists the company’s 336 Grand Street address, having contributed $1,750 to Torres’ campaign in June 2014.
Neil also donated various amounts to the mayor’s campaign, surpassing the legal donation limit of $2,600. Torres’ campaign treasurer refunded $250 in excess contribution to Neil in November 2014.
“I’m not going to discuss my politics with you over the phone,” said Richard Engelhardt, the company’s owner. He denied the existence Neil. Engelhardt’s company is known for being a diehard supporter of the mayor.
Torres could not be reached for comments for this story.