Marc Pfeiffer Weighs in on Essex County COVID-19 Funding Issues

Bloustein Local Government | News

Essex County pushed hard and fast to get its residents vaccinated against COVID-19. Ultimately, the county administered more than 622,000 vaccinations. But a report released Tuesday by the acting state comptroller says problems plagued how the county spent some of its $40 million in federal COVID-19 funding.

Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University, said Essex County officials legitimately used emergency no-bid contracts to make quick decisions as they confronted blocked supply chains during the pandemic. But, according to the state comptroller’s report, Essex County over-used that perk and violated public bidding rules. It made 15 payments totaling more than $870,000 with no invoices; spent $17 million on extra workers without properly recording whether they all showed up; paid one staffer $130,000 but never explained what she did; and paid a robocall vendor an extra $110,000, something Essex County officials didn’t notice until the comptroller pointed it out.

“Not enough resources were spent to manage those contracts to ensure that controls were in place and there was monitoring done to prevent that type of a circumstance from happening,” Pfeiffer said. “And then, monitoring to see, if it did happen — what do you do about it?’

NJ Spotlight News, April 17, 2024