Monday, December 18, 2023
For more than a week, a great deal of misinformation has been shared by State Senator Vince Polistina and Atlantic County Republican Party Chairman Don Purdy, who are sadly completely ignorant of the facts. They have chosen to attack me, my administration, and members of the Atlantic County Insurance Commission because of their own intense hatred of George Norcross and their erroneous belief that the Insurance Commission was operating clandestinely to award a contract to Mr. Norcross’s insurance firm.
Differences between friends, family and colleagues are nothing new, but most try to resolve their conflicts among themselves. Senator Polistina and Chairman Purdy decided to do so publicly on the radio. If they had brought their concerns and incredible accusations to me first, I would have provided them with the same explanation I will now share with you.
According to Senator Polistina and Chairman Purdy, no one, including members of the Atlantic County Board of Commissioners (formerly known as Board of Freeholders), was aware of the Atlantic County Insurance Commission’s existence. They would have the public believe that somehow the commission was operating in the dark and they needed to bring it to light.
Had they done their homework, they could have simply searched “Atlantic County Insurance Commission” and found its website (www.atlanticcountyinsurancecommission.com) that has been available for seven years and includes the meeting schedule, agendas, minutes, members, RFP notices, financials, audits, and more.
They would have also found the Atlantic County Insurance Commission was created in 2015 and joined the Statewide County Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund, as one of 10 current county members, to help save taxpayers money by pooling resources. Its members meet nine times a year and serve three-year terms. The County Board of Commissioners (Freeholders) reviewed and passed resolutions in 2017, 2020 and as recently as September 19, 2023 to renew the county’s membership in the Insurance Commission.
Keep in mind this is the same Board of Commissioners the Senator and the Chairman claim were ignorant of the Insurance Commission’s very existence. Any insinuation that the nine county commissioners were unfamiliar with the Insurance Commission is blatantly false and highly insulting.
Every three years the Insurance Commission is required by statute to put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an Executive Director. Only one company has responded to the RFP over the past nine years, and that was the firm PERMA, a subsidiary of Conner Strong and Buckelew, of which Mr. Norcross is affiliated. This year another firm, PRIME, also responded. A meeting was held December 8 to award the contract but was rudely interrupted by Senator Polistina who introduced himself and asked to speak first, stating, “this whole charade is bulls**t.”
Senator Polistina argues that I, as county executive, should have given him a courtesy call to tell him about the pending contract. Really? Is that now my job to inform a sitting senator, and former assemblyman, of every contract coming before county government? I haven’t asked, nor would I expect, him to provide me with a courtesy call before every vote on the Senate floor. I trust him to do his job just as he should trust me, my administration and the County Board of Commissioners (Freeholders), to do ours.
Senator Polistina will also tell you that PERMA is running the Insurance Commission at a $3 million deficit. What he fails to mention is a reserve with $11 million. Let that sink in – an $11 million reserve!
Despite the unprofessional behavior of the senator, the Atlantic County Insurance Commission agreed to table the vote to allow both responding insurance agencies to return on December 19 to explain how they would service our account.
I have never exerted influence over any decision made by the Insurance Commission in all its years of existence. I do not care which companies receive contracts provided they meet the criteria and are the lowest responsible bidders. What I do expect and require from all county staff is an open bidding, RFP process that awards contracts for services that are in the best interests of county residents and taxpayers.
I am proud of the fair and transparent government Atlantic County provides. I am, however, disappointed that far too many of our own municipalities do not follow our lead. They choose not to engage in open bidding as we do. Instead, they hand out contracts to donors and cronies allowing these companies to reap benefits at the taxpayers’ expense.
I am also completely astounded that Senator Polistina would text the Atlantic County Democrat Chairman to ask him to join Polistina in forming a coalition to dismantle the “shadow government” that runs Atlantic County. This is not a misprint; you read that correctly. Senator Polistina believes Atlantic County is operated by a shadow government. Sounds like something from a CIA spy novel.
This communication occurred days after the Senator went on the radio to proclaim that I had knifed him in the back. Is anyone missing the irony here? Is anyone else troubled by the fact that our state senator would resort to such duplicity?
Those who know me can attest I am not a mean-spirited person. I didn’t start this and am frankly embarrassed to have to address these childish antics. But I will not allow unfounded allegations to tarnish the reputation of Atlantic County government and the dedicated staff who have worked to provide and maintain the finest run county government in the state. I believe our residents deserve and appreciate honest government and truthful leaders.