Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration awarded a $288,000 grant writing contract to a firm owned by a man who helped him get elected four years ago.
Morristown-based Millennium Strategies was awarded the contract, which runs for three years, last month. City records show just two companies picked up request for proposal documents and only one submitted a proposal. The city will have the option to renew for year 2 and 3, according to records.
Ed Farmer, who is president of Millennium Strategies, said his firm wrote 55 grants for Paterson in 2021.
“We brought in $14.3 million for the city we were paid $84,000. Our return on investment for the city is 170-1,” said Farmer.
Council members approved the contract in a 7-2 vote in February.
Al Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, Maritza Davila, Shahin Khalique, Lilisa Mimms, Flavio Rivera, and Luis Velez voted in favor while Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez voted against.
Farmer worked on Sayegh’s campaign four years ago. He also organized a $1,000 per plate fundraiser for Sayegh at the time. He also serves on the board of One Paterson, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. 501(c)(4) organizations are called “dark money” groups because the law allows them to avoid disclosing donors.
Sayegh’s rival on the council and some running for mayor criticized awarding the contract,
“I felt like it’s a conflict of interest,” said Jackson. He said he was not comfortable voting for it.
“That’s corruption 101,” said Mendez. He said Millennium Strategies has received multiple contracts since Sayegh took office.
Mendez said he may decide against renewing for year 2 and 3 if he becomes mayor. “I’m going to review it,” he said..
“A blind man can see what’s going on, but there’s nobody to do anything about it,” said former councilman Aslon Goow.
Velez defended his vote.
“I can’t go against something that’s working,” said Velez. “I’m going based on company performance.”
Jackson, Mendez, Velez, Goow, and Sayegh are all running for mayor on May 10.