Dobco, Inc. v. Bergen Co. Improvement Auth.

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s ruling that the express terms of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) did not anticipate a contract with a redeveloper like the one proposed by the requests for qualification in this case. Accordingly, the Bergen Co. Improvement Authority (BCIA) could not avoid the requirements of public bidding for goods or services covered by the Local Public Contracts Law (LPCL) simply by cloaking itself in the rubric of a redevelopment entity under the LRHL and designating the general contractor for the project as a redeveloper. In this case, the BCIA issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) which designated the general contractor for the project as the “redeveloper,” and stated the BCIA would contract with the general contractor to provide goods and services for the rehabilitation of a courthouse. The redeveloper would be paid with public funds the BCIA obtained through the issuance and sale of bonds guaranteed by the County. In other words, unlike most redevelopment agreements, here, the “redeveloper” would be paid with public funds to provide goods and services to the BCIA that are typically subject to public bidding. The Supreme Court required that, going forward, a plaintiff claiming taxpayer standing in an action challenging the process used to award a public contract for goods or services must file a certification with the complaint. As to the merits of this appeal, the Court departed from the Appellate Division’s decision in only one respect: the Court did not rely on the leasing and financing arrangements contemplated by the BCIA and the defendant County of Bergen.

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