Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration is on the verge of opting into the Passaic County Energy Cooperative to give a lucrative energy contract to a company that gave more than $400,000 to a lobbying firm tied to one of the mayor’s close allies.
Concord Engineering, the firm expected to get the contract, gave $404,369 to the lobbying firm, Princeton Public Affairs Group, since 2011. Concord Engineering of Voorhees gave more than $60,000 every year to the lobbying firm from 2012 through 2017, according to latest annual lobbying reports the Princeton Public Affairs Group filed with the state government. It gave $43,000 in 2011.
William Pascrell III, who held a $1,000 per plate fundraiser for Sayegh earlier in the year, is a partner in the Princeton Public Affairs Group.
Pascrell is the son of congressman Bill Pascrell.
Pascrell III, who serves as Passaic County Counsel, did not respond to a message seeking his comments for this story.
State records show Pascrell III collected $661,489 from the Princeton Public Affairs Group in 2017, more than any other lobbyist in the firm. His salary in Passaic County government is $133,487, according to payroll records.
The City Council will vote on Tuesday night whether to join the Passaic County Energy Cooperative.
Sayegh administration officials said the city will save $108,500 over a two-year period by switching to Concord Engineering. Under the plan, the city will no longer buy electricity from PSEG. Another firm will service the city’s 302 electricity accounts, according to municipal officials.
Business administrator Vaughn McKoy provided a projection sheet to council members last month that showed the city will save $54,261 or 7-percent on the annual $804,796 electricity bill.
“I didn’t know if they gave anything,” said Sayegh on Monday morning. When asked if Pascrell, who is known as BPIII, ever lobbied to make sure his client gets the city’s business, Sayegh said, “No. He did not.”
Council members said they were unaware of the company’s lobbying expenditures.
“I think the relationship or the association was clear even when they came before us the last time,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. He said he was unaware of the firm’s lobbying spending. “The mayor has said, in his platform, in his approach, he is going to leverage his relationships and those of others around him — the county and the governor’s office — to bring resources to the city. That’s what he has said and the people voted for him.”
Sayegh had pushed for Concord Engineering five years ago. He wanted the firm to takeover residential PSEG accounts, arguing residents will save money.
Vicki Molloy, vice president of energy services at Concord Engineering, last week, said the firm had to scrap the residential project after it failed to produce savings.
Molloy did not respond to a call for comment for this story.
Councilman McKoy said his focus is on whether the firm can save the city money on its electricity bill. “Is what they are offering of benefit to us that’s what we have to focus on,” he said.
Administration officials provided savings numbers that were produced by Concord Engineering, the numbers were not audited by an independent third party.
“Something like this is very alarming,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. He is skeptical of the promised savings. “It looks like it’s turning out to be something the other way around. His relationships are benefiting from him being mayor as opposed to the city benefiting from his relationships,” said Jackson.
The council appeared divided on the proposal last week.
“It’s not a direct donation to the mayor. I don’t know if there’s a connection,” said Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman.
Jackson’s skepticism increased after learning of the hundreds of thousands Concord Engineering spent on lobbying to get the city’s business.
“We’re taking a gamble,” said Jackson.