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Monmouth County Engineering Company Faces Election Law Charges

Executives at firm behind county's solar projects named in indictments.

Seven current or former executives of a Monmouth-County-based engineering firm were indicted today on charges accusing them of violating state pay-to-play laws.

Birdsall Services Group, with a host of contracts at municipalities throughout New Jersey—including Somerset County's solar panel projects—is accused of skirting the state's pay-to-play laws by reimbursing its employees for their personal, unreportable political contributions, according to a release from the state Attorney General's Office.

In the alleged scheme, instead of the company making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm allegedly made personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable.

Under state law, personal political contributions under $300 do not have to be reported to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

In a statement, Birdsall criticized the indictments.

"We find it regrettable that the state has made this decision after the company has voluntarily made sweeping changes to its leadership and internal processes over the past 10 months to ensure that such actions could never occur again," spokesman Joe Orlando said. "Birdsall Services Group will continue to serve its many clients in full compliance with the new standards it implemented along with its long history of professional competence."

The state's Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau on Tuesday obtained a nine-count state grand jury indictment charging Birdsall Services Group, which is headquartered in Eatontown, Monmouth County, and several employees and shareholders, including:

  • Howard C. Birdsall, 69, of Brielle, the largest shareholder of Birdsall, who retired late last year as CEO.  He allegedly made at least $49,808 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.
  • Thomas Rospos, 61, of Belmar, a former executive vice president of Birdsall.  Rospos was charged in a prior indictment in the case, but this indictment supersedes the earlier one. He allegedly made at least $241,000 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.
  • William Birdsall, 64, of Manchester, Howard’s brother. He holds the title of senior vice president and is a significant shareholder of the firm. He is semi-retired.  He allegedly made at least $74,459 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.
  • Alan Hilla Sr., 73, of Brielle. He is executive vice president for business development for Birdsall and a significant shareholder of Birdsall. He also is semi-retired.  He allegedly made at least $148,309 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.
  • Scott MacFadden, 58, of Brick, chief administrative officer of Birdsall. He allegedly made at least $77,957 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.
  • James Johnston, 51, of North Brunswick. He is president of the Environmental Consulting Division of Birdsall and a significant shareholder. He allegedly made at least $45,797 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.
  • Robert Gerard, 52, of Wall. He is the former chief marketing officer of Birdsall and was formerly a significant shareholder. He allegedly made at least $48,700 in illegally reimbursed political contributions.

Each of the defendants is charged with conspiracy, two counts of money laundering, making false representations for government contracts, misconduct by a corporate official, tampering with public records or information, falsifying records, prohibited corporation contributions through employees and concealment or misrepresentation of contributions or expenditures.

The amounts listed for illegal contributions by the defendants are approximate figures based on the investigation to date, and the investigation is ongoing, the attorney general's office said. 

If convicted, the defendants could face 10 to 20 years in prison on each count of conspiracy and money laundering alone. The remaining charges all carry prison terms from three to 10 years.

Altogether, each defendant also could face fines of more than $1.3 million.

Birdsall has been performing the engineering work for the second round of Somerset County's project installing solar panels on municipal and school properties. Hillsborough officials did not participate in the county program.

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