Atlantic County: Former Assistant County Counsel Used County Email to Tell Contracted Attorney How to Get No-Bid Contracts, Save on Campaign Contributions

Today, August 2nd, 2017 JerseyLeaks publishes a verified email chain that shows a then-Atlantic County Law Department official telling a contracted attorney from a politically connected law firm how he can save on campaign contributions and avoid having to competitively bid contracts for legal services. Today’s release is the beginning of our multi-part series where we will be investigating Atlantic County government.

Donna Taylor
Denny Levinson

MAYS LANDING, NJ – In 2006, Atlantic County government contracts appeared to be on the auction block. In a “let’s make a deal” style email chain, Donna Taylor, who was then an employee of the Atlantic County Law Department and a member of the Linwood City Council, where she would serve as council president.

In the email chain from 2006 obtained by JerseyLeaks, Taylor, who was then working as an assistant county counsel, frankly discusses how Arthur Murray, a contracted professional hired by the county, can avoid having to competitively bid legal services contracts to comply with a newly adopted pay-to-play law.

“I have to do a resolution to take your firm out of the ‘fair and open’ bidding process under the new Pay to Play law,” Taylor wrote in an email to Murray, who was then with the firm of Jacobs & Barbone, a politically connected law firm frequently retained by the Atlantic County government.

“For right now, please be aware that you can not contribute any more that 300 to anyone in the County, that is INCLUSIVE of EVERYONE in your firm AND their families,” Taylor wrote in the email chain.  “Otherwise you have to bid on our work. Right now the resolution will allow us to assign you work without bidding.”

“You guys are saving a lot on contributions”

In a later email sent after Murray replied, Taylor explained that under the requirements of the pay-to-play law at issue in 2006, the maximum amount of money the firm would be able to give was $300. Taylor said that the prohibition on contributions above that amount would impact county elected officials and municipal elected official employed by the county, such as herself.

“So, the good news for you is that you guys are saving a lot on contributions– you are only looking at really $300 for the whole year. (makes up for our low rate!),” Taylor wrote to Murray.

Now A Superior Court Judge

Taylor, for her part, is now an Atlantic County Superior Court judge. Taylor was appointed to her position on the bench by Governor Chris Christie in 2014.  The appointment to the bench came after Taylor missed out on a position at the Casino Control Commission, according to a source.

468 downloads 02-08-2017 21:07 Jersey Leaks 1.0

How these emails were authenticated

We authenticated the emails using the DKIM signatures in the headers of the raw emails. DKIM uses RSA public key cryptography, not unlike the same encryption we use to keep sources safe when they submit documents. Emails exiting a domain’s server are cryptographically signed using a private key on the email server.

The digital signatures of the emails sent from the server can then be authenticated as unaltered by using the corresponding public key included with the messages to verify that the signatures were authentic.