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Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at or follow me @awisefool.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Engineering firms advertise in fundraiser for former Hamilton mayor without disclosed donations

It’s the case of the magically appearing advertisements. State and local laws require strict reporting of campaign donations in New Jersey, but several advertisements in 2010 and 2011 seem to have slipped through the cracks.
Five full-page or larger advertisements in the programs for the Hamilton Mayor’s Ball for those two years offered congratulations from Birdsall Services Group and two other engineering firms that received close to $1 million in public contracts from the township during former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo’s tenure.
Typically, advertisements of this type would help pay for an event, such as the Mayor’s Ball, and would be considered donations. Yet, the five ads do not appear as disclosed donations in state databases, and undisclosed donations by township contractors which would exceed a $300 threshold is illegal under both state and local laws. Unpaid ads or those costing less than $300 would be legal.
Hamilton GOP Committee chairman Michael Chianese, whose organization funded the events and took the donations, said Bencivengo and Phil Angarone Jr., a former marketing director for Birdsall, directed the funds from the events.
“He (Bencivengo) did not even inform the chairman, me, on how he was moving money around,” he said. “I did not manage or have involvement in how the mayor spent the money. That was something he and Phil (Angarone, Jr.) did.”
Recently, Birdsall Services Group has had two executives brought up on charges they contributed to a scheme that went back to 2008 that prosecutors say violates the state’s Pay-To-Play law. The law prohibits public contractors from making undisclosed donations and/or donations above a certain threshold. The state attorney general’s office has not yet stated whether the Pay-to-Play violations included Hamilton.
Phil Angarone Jr., 40, of Hamilton, pleaded guilty in November to charges he funneled money to campaigns illegally and lied on state disclosures as the marketing director for Birdsall. Angarone admitted to helping give Birdsall employees bonuses in exchange for political donations that stayed just under the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) threshold for disclosure

Angarone served as the co-chairman of Bencivengo’s Mayor’s Ball in 2010 and the co-chairman of the program committee for the ball in 2011.
Vice President of Birdsall, Thomas Rospos, 60, of Belmar, was indicted in December on charges of false representations to the government, conspiracy, money laundering and other charges.
Bencivengo has not responded to several phone calls since December regarding this information. However, Bencivengo’s attorney Jerome Ballarotto, said Bencivengo did not want to comment.
Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede, selected by council after Bencivengo resigned following his conviction on federal corruption charges in November, said she was confident that any improprieties were the product of two individuals and did not affect the town, its bidded contracts or the taxpayers.
“I think if they’ve indeed paid for advertisements, it indeed should have been disclosed,” she said. “The government in Hamilton will get bids as we always have. The sound fiscal practices will continue as normal.”
You can read the full story here.


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