“I Stand On My Credentials”
“I am not a crook, … I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life I have never obstructed justice.”
~~~Â (Richard M. Nixon)
Jorge Berkowitz is a senior associate with Langan Engineering. He works as a consultant to responsbile parties (polluters) in cleaning up toxic waste sites.
In 2008-09, Berkowitz testifed in support of legislation to privatize the NJ toxic site cleanup program and create so called “Licensed Site Professionals” (LSP).
At the time, we testified that an LSP program would result in gross conflicts of interest and invite corruption and abuse.
The LSP bill was signed into law in 2009 and on May 11, 2010 Berkowitz wasÂ nominated by Governor Christie to the Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board, where his conflicts of interest have multiplied vastly.Â The LSP Board oversees the LSPs, including enforcement of ethics,Â conflicts of interest and professional standards.Â
The old cliche about the fox guarding the henhouse doesn’t begin to describe the swampÂ that Berkowitz is up to his eyeballs in.Â
We wrote about allÂ this in: Privatization of NJ Toxic Cleanup Law Reveals a Systematic Collapse – â€œForget it, Jake. Itâ€™s Chinatown.â€
Well we now learn – SURPRISE, SURPRISE!Â -Â according to today’sÂ Star LedgerÂ - that Berkowitz’ firm,Â Langan, has been pumping big money into a political operation that supports Governor Christie.
Boldly oblivious to the irony and with no sense of shame,Â that sleazy pro Christie group is named “Reform Jersey Now” - did you get that?:
List of biggest donors to pro-Christie group includes contractors paid millions by N.J.
TRENTON â€” Contractors paid hundreds of millions of dollars by state agencies were among the top donors to a group that has been publicly promoting Gov. Chris Christieâ€™s legislative agenda for the past six months.
Reform Jersey Now, a nonprofit organization, voluntarily released its list of donors Wednesday. The release came as the group simultaneously announced it was ceasing operation effective Friday. …
Among its top donors: …
- Langan Engineering & Environmental â€” $25,000. The firm received about $2 million from various state government departments last year. Jorge Berkowitz, a senior associate with the company, is on the stateâ€™s Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board. “Iâ€™ve never heard of (Reform Jersey Now) before,” said Berkowitz, “I know nothing about what Langan donates. I will stand on my credentials and record.”
Jorge, you might as well stand on your credentials, because their ain’t much else left.
The only honorable thing to do at this point – given that appearance of a conflict of interest is the legal standard in NJ - is to immediately resign from the LSP Board.
The whole world is watching, Jorge.
[Update - Note also, SectionÂ 3 of SRRAÂ provides the Governor with an ethical resolution:
Â d. (1) The Governor may remove a member of the board for cause, after a public hearing.
Also,Â Section 16 provides
p. A licensed site remediation professional shall not allow the use of his name by a person, and shall not associate with a person in a business venture, if the licensed site remediation professional knows or should know that the person engages in fraudulent or dishonest business or professional practices regarding the professional responsibilities of a licensed site remediation professional.
[ps - here's how the game works - purely hypothetically of course -Â the pay-to play contribution to Christie gets a bigger payback than just a seat on the LSP Board (which amounts to immunity from license revocation or professional sanctions).Â Berkowitz' cleanup cases can expect to get very little scrutiny at DEP and he can use his access and influence with the Administration to stand down any negative DEP audits or hostile enforcement actions. So, similar toÂ a kickback scheme, some ofÂ the money that polluters can save in cutting corners on cleanup costs can be plowed back to Berkowitz' firm with little risk of detection or sanctions by DEP. Just imagine having the cops,Â theÂ prosecutor, and the judge on a leash! Not bad, eh? Goes to show, you get what you pay for!]Â